Will Bloomberg’s Municipal Technocrats Undermine A Progressive Presidency?

Pointed critiques of Bloomberg’s egregious behavior and the damaging policies he advanced as mayor of New York have filled media feeds for months. Many progressives are heartened by the results of the Nevada primary. Bernie Sanders’s star is rising, and Bloomberg, despite deep pockets and support from centrist insiders, seems less likely to be the Democratic nominee.

Even so, the power Bloomberg holds over national public policy should not be underestimated. It is vital to connect his past activities, ones that were incredibly harmful to the Black community and low-income people, to his current efforts that aim to transform government into an extension of transnational global capital using a combination of innovative municipal finance, data analytics, and smart city infrastructure.

What Works Cities Intro


In a recent MSNBC clip, Anand Giridharadas, said his book Winner Take All was written to expose “dance moves” executed by the super rich to distract people from what is actually happening. He noted Bloomberg made a fortune selling data terminals to global finance, whose activities have contributed to the economic misery of many, many people. Anyone who reads my blog knows poverty is THE raw material for pay for success finance. Bloomberg has been in on this market from the ground floor.

Bloomberg Philanthropies acted as guarantor for the first social impact bond in the United States at Riker’s Island. In 2012 he prepared a briefing paper titled “Bringing Social Impact Bonds to New York City.” In 2018, Tracy Palandjian at Social Finance lauded his “What Works Cities” certification program, noting her hopes that participating cities would be able to more quickly scale pay for success finance using new tools like outcomes rate cards. The post housing-crash decade of austerity and precarity has teed up social impact investing as the new growth sector for Bloomberg’s oligarch network. No one in mass media is openly talking about THAT part of the story.

Privatizing social services using “evidence-based” programs that extract human capital data to facilitate performance contracts is the next phase of this brutal game. The “pay for success” game is not, however, exclusive to Bloomberg. It has advanced with broad bipartisan support. Federal legislation including the Foundations for Evidence Based Policy Making Act and the Social Impact Partnership Pay For Results Act paved the way for this agenda. FEPA passed the House with a 95% approval rate! While Giridharadas shines a spotlight on some of the dance moves, for now pay for success finance remains back stage. It seems no one is eager to unpack Moneyball government. Far easier to simply close with “rich-splaining” than complicate the narrative. Listen to the clip here.

Giridharadas On Bloomberg

With Bloomberg Philanthropies’ “What Works Cities” operating in over one hundred communities and counting, the billionaire class is poised to spread the trauma he inflicted on New York across the nation and around the world.

The partners in Bloomberg Philanthropies “What Works Cities” program include:

Behavioral Insights Team: Spin-off of the UK “nudge unit” that advances behavioral economics research to shape public service delivery.

Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab: Successor to the Social Impact Bond Lab. Provides technical support to scale pay for success projects nationally.

Johns Hopkins Center for Government Excellence: Established in 2015 with a gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies to transform government operation through data infrastructure.

Results For America: Administrator of “What Works Cities” and intermediary between “evidence-based” policy implementation and social impact investors.

Sunlight Foundation: Tech and finance funding think tank promoting use of technology to advance transparency in government spending.

The Davos crowd knows more poverty is coming, and that poverty will be monitored in ever more sophisticated ways (cue food stamps on Blockchain). Smart city surveillance was refined in lower Manhattan by Microsoft and the New York City Police Department with Bloomberg’s blessing and homeland security funding. Domain Awareness System  has been adopted in numerous cities and by the governments of Brazil and Singapore. One of my recent posts examines Trump’s Operation Relentless Pursuit policing program and provides insight into the target cities along with Bloomberg’s ties to urban surveillance.

Domain Awareness


In the data-driven future of Bloomberg’s dreams, stop-and-frisk will include hive-mind drones and robot police dogs; education privatization proceeds with digital vouchers, stackable credentials, and teachers transformed into gamified avatars; gentrification forces unhoused folks into Blockchain identity systems and “smart” cargo containers where their every move is tracked for “impact.” Add brutality to his previous policies and plug them into a world of Big Data where targeted individuals are valued for their compliance to pathway programs as bits and pieces of global investment portfolios.

It will be a surveillance society beholden to corporate interests where public services are aligned to UN Sustainability Development Goals (UN SDGs) and efficiently measured to maximize profit for impact investors. A majority of the UN SDGs are framed as “anti-poverty” initiatives that allow billionaires to make money from micro-management of the misery of the poor. Bloomberg served as special envoy to the United Nations for Climate Change and was a global ambassador for non-communicable diseases to the World Health Organization. He chaired the Sustainable Accounting Standards Board, which is part of the Impact Management Project and partnered with Credly, a digital badging software company.

He has his pulse on how the very real social welfare concerns of progressives can be twisted by his fellow bad actors to turn a tidy profit. It’s all in how the deals are structured, and how the data is harvested. Bloomberg made his fortune creating innovative financial products and collecting and analyzing data. If you’re unfamiliar with how the UN SDGs interface with global finance, read this post.

UN SDG Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg UN SDG Map here.

With the advent of 5G and quantum computing, the visions of technocracy advanced nearly a century ago by Howard Scott may be coming to fruition. Government run by industrial engineers, technocrats, was a premise first investigated by Columbia University in the 1930s. Now Neil Kleiman and his colleagues at the NYU GovLab are advancing a similar approach branded this time around as “open data” and “civic tech.” GovLab,based in the Tandon School of Engineering, hosts several programs that support social impact finance. These include the Google and MacArthur Foundation funded Research Network on Opening Governance, the Data Labs project, and Innovations in Open Grantmaking.

Kleiman, a liberal, and Stephen Goldsmith, a conservative former mayor of Indianapolis who briefly served as Bloomberg’s Deputy Mayor of Operations and later led Harvard’s Data Smart City Solutions, are members of the “What Works Cities” standards committee. The two men published a book in 2017 titled A New City OS. The new “operating system” they pitched embraces distributed governance as a way to “restore public trust.” In reality that “openness” will usher in a wave of public-private partnerships intended to unlock public data so companies can pillage communal assets and develop products like predictive policing software.

The video below is a gathering Kleiman participated in at the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Policy Research Initiative in the winter of 2018. It gives you a sense of the scope of data-driven government. I ask a question about pay for success finance at timestamp 57 minutes.

While not specifically identified as technocracy, algorithmic governance aligns with the ideals popularized by Thorstein Veblen and later stewarded by Zbigniew Brzezinski and members of the Trilateral Commission, of which Bloomberg is a member. Tracking the exact input and outputs of a nation’s economy was not possible with the technology available in the 1930s or the 1970s. Advances in ubiquitous computing and digital identity make it seem those challenges could eventually be addressed. Today global finance has embedded itself firmly into most government operations.

Cadres of technocrats are being lined up to service this industrial government vision. A new effort, Public Interest Technology – University Network, is being led by New America with financial support from the Ford and Hewlett Packard Foundations, both major players in global impact investing. Twenty-one prestigious universities have signed on to deliver the interdisciplinary training that data scientists will need to manage operating systems designed to engineer “living cities,” humans and infrastructure, to meet the financial expectations (impact) of Bloomberg and the Davos crowd.

PIT-UN Project Leads

Interactive map of Public Interest Technology – University Network here.

Harnessing the people of the United States to “What Works” government policies would be a crowning achievement for this electrical engineering major who used his expertise and a Harvard MBA to create a name for himself in bond sales at Salomon Brothers. Bloomberg leveraged that experience to become one of the largest purveyors of data analytics in finance. He pivoted to government “service” where as mayor of one of the world’s power centers he created a test-bed for data-driven policies. As a “philanthropist,” this billionaire is collaborating with finance and technology interests to hijack what remains of the social safety net, transforming it into a digital containment system to wring a few last drops of profit from the masses that will be thrown out of work by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Even if he’s not able to set up shop in the Oval Office, Bloomberg’s extensive partnerships indicate he’s not likely to quietly exit stage left if he loses his bid for the presidency. He’s working with Harvard Kennedy School to train hundreds of civic leaders; has tapped Results for America to oversee national implementation of “evidence-based” programs; and partnered with Living Cities to expand the network of change-agent Innovation Teams (iTeams). Cities, apparently, are the most attractive “unit of change.”

Bloomberg Government Innovation

Bloomberg Government Innovation interactive map here.

Bloomberg has billions to burn, and his plan is to bring global impact investing to scale. If his A-game doesn’t pan out, you can be sure there’s a Plan B. Imagine a truly progressive candidate wins the election. How likely is it that state and local governments will turn their backs on innovation zones, predatory public-private partnerships, and “pay for success” performance-based contracting? It seems far more likely that leaders groomed by Bloomberg whose communities have accepted Bloomberg Philanthropies’ largesse will continue to play along, even if it means vulnerable citizens are put on Blockchain and turned into profit centers for social entrepreneurs.

Bloomberg Harvard Mayors Training

What gives me hope is that there are more big-hearted people out there than technocrats. People of diverse backgrounds are uniting to demand wealth inequality be addressed, to demand people’s needs be met, to demand an end to violent systems of state control and police brutality.

My concern is that the very real needs for which these people are fighting have been set up as social impact markets.

So, will those of us who see the bigger picture be able to expose all the oligarchs’ sneaky “dance moves?”

Once we do that will we be able to come up with alternative sources of finance that do not require toddlers to be put on surveillance tables; veterans suffering from PTSD to be assigned text-bot therapists; or diabetic patients to have IoT sensors in their shoes to access the public service so desperately needed?

Can we convince people that Blockchain identity and 5G won’t offer liberation, but is instead a way for capitalism and private (digital) property rights to jump into virtual reality? That augmented reality is the next settler-colonial frontier?

Austin Blockchain Bloomberg

Funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, more here.

Can we strive for right relationships and banish technocracy once and for all?

People know the countless terrible things Michael Bloomberg has done in the past, but not enough people are talking about “what works,” data-driven, technocratic government. I’m not holding my breath for mainstream media to sound the alarm. There are too many hands in the Moneyball government cookie jar. We must do it. Please, share this information and broaden the conversation. If technocrats are able to redirect public demands for progressive public policy into the predatory architecture of pay for success finance, it will be a terrible loss for humanity and the planet.

PS: If you haven’t read my post in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people, check it out here. Freda Huson and those around her are a perfect antidote for the toxicity of Bloomberg and his ilk. This is where hope lives.

All The Darkness Exposed To Light










Statement of Solidarity In Support of Wet’suwet’en First Nation: All The Darkness Shall Be Exposed To The Light

Today I had the luxury of enjoying time with my child who is home from college for a brief visit. As wonderful as it was to have a day off of work, it felt wrong to enjoy a “holiday” celebrating two colonizers. This feeling was particularly strong for me this year. You see my child is now pursuing their education on the un-ceded lands Canada calls British Columbia. It is a place where a significant struggle for Indigenous rights is unfolding. I feel a responsibility to encourage them to educate themselves, to be a good guest, and to support the self-determination efforts of Indigenous peoples who put their lives on the line to protect their territories and culture. I signed a pledge in support of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation and made a contribution towards their legal fees. Information about various ways you can support can be found on the supporter toolkit page here.

I write this statement of solidarity today, hoping my voice can in some small way honor ongoing Wet’suwet’en resistance to the colonial violence being carried on behalf of Coastal GasLink and other pipeline companies and their investors, many of which have ties to the United States. If you haven’t been following the Royal Mounted Canadian Police’s armed invasion of Wet’suwet’en lands, I encourage you to check out the hash tags #ReconciliationIsDead and #ShutDownCanada. Also take twenty minutes to watch the short documentary film, Invasion. It describes Unist’ot’en Camp’s decade-long project to build a healing center and protect their lands and water.

I’ve been trying to sit down and write for several weeks but keep putting it off. I’ve been preoccupied mapping the Negroponte brothers, technocracy, and Blockchain education. Each dot on each map reveals some new horrific facet of the larger puzzle, making it hard to focus and tell the story that needs to be told. My praxis has been to digitally swim in this toxic brew of militarized transnational global capital. It helps me learn the terrain, so I can interpret it for others. The toxicity, however, does take a toll.

An antidote over the past few weeks has been watching from afar the powerful stand taken by the Wet’suwet’en people against the pipeline companies. They have steadfastly and at great personal risk opposed the Canadian corporate state, which professes to be a leader in sustainability while continuing to partner with extractive industries that are intent on devastating Indigenous lands and waters. In a video last week, Freda Huson of Unist’ot’en Camp said they intended make their stand and expose the lies. They would bring the darkness to light.

As a mother, it was incredibly moving to see these matriarchs confronting riflemen and dogs and helicopters. The women of Unist’ot’en Camp were taken while in ceremony honoring the lives of missing and murdered women lost to the petroleum industry. They were taken as they stood in ceremony, living links between ancestors and future generations. It brought to mind Regina Brave’s treaty stand at Standing Rock. The sacrifice of these women exposed the brutal violence upon which colonialism rests.

There is no doubt in my mind that the world is at a crossroads. Will the masses follow the scorched path of technocracy or will we uphold Indigenous sovereignty and pursue a different course? I hope that mothers of the world will recognize this is the time to choose the latter path, the green one. This week my feed was filled with images of Michael Bloomberg and Freda Huson. The former is the face of faux “techno-green” capitalism that intends to kill the planet to further enrich oligarchs through initiatives like LNG. The latter embodies a worldview that centers self-determination for Indigenous and oppressed peoples and collective healing for people and planet.

It gives me hope that so many across North America have risen up to join with the Wet’suwet’en people in calling out Canada and Trudeau on their treacherous actions. The amount of direct action and disruption caused shows how powerful people can be when united in struggle. Let us tap into that power to build a world based in right relationships. Let us to bring the darkness to light. As we in the United States drown in coverage of the upcoming presidential election, we should keep in mind that the leaders we actually need may very well be the Freda Husons.

Reconciliation is dead; revolution is alive.



Dallas And Tulsa: A Tale of Two Blockchains

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to travel to Dallas and Tulsa, connect in person with friends and research collaborators, see local sites of “social entrepreneurship,” and meet others who are developing strategies to fight the coming tide of predatory “human capital investment.” For important background on the disruption that is overtaking Tulsa, I recommend you read Julianne Romanello’s feature article in the Tulsa Star, George Kaiser’s Social Impact Philanthropy: How A Billionaire Turned North Tulsa’s Misery Into A Cash Cow.

During this visit I gave several presentations.  Below are three of them, as well as a Facebook Live feed from an informational leafleting action held at an Impact Tulsa event. While the Wednesday and Saturday talks are on the same topic, the first has more audience participation while the second gets through the whole slide deck. It’s a lot to take in, but I wanted to put it all in one place for future reference. I believe the importance of the information shared here will become more evident as the takeover of public benefit systems by “stakeholder capitalists” picks up steam. You can access the slide share for the Tulsa talks here.

Tuesday Discussion in Dallas

Alison McDowell in Dallas from Lynn Davenport on Vimeo.

Wednesday Evening Presentation, Downtown Library, Tulsa, OK, filmed by Green Country DSA

Saturday Morning Presentation, Downtown Library, Tulsa, OK

Leafletting at Impact Tulsa’s Pathways to Opportunity Event at OSU, January 23, 2020

In preparing for my visit I discovered both Dallas and Tulsa are piloting Blockchain high school transcripts. Promoters of Blockchain credentials tout their convenience as well as their capacity to aggregate demonstrations of competencies earned from a variety sources. That, of course, is the infrastructure needed to set up “anytime, anywhere lifelong learning ecosystems.” It will also enable the tracking of people’s economic output against their “education” over time, throwing open the door to widespread adoption of income-sharing agreements. Both are crucial elements needed to scale human capital investment markets globally.

If social impact financiers get their way, future generations will no longer have access to physical school buildings in their communities. It will be in the interests of the elite to suppress social discourse and free idea sharing among the masses as the Fourth Industrial Revolution begins to pick up speed. Instead, we will see efforts to transition to screen-based and wearable technologies that deliver “just-in-time” “personalized” learning content via OER (open education resources). Blockchain will be used to “verify” that individuals, now reduced to raw material for digital processing, have acquired the skills that chamber of commerce executives deem desirable for maintaining their planned regional economies.

As people progress along assigned “cradle to career” pathways, service providers and global investors will collect “impact” payments. Children and older “lifelong learners” will be expected to demonstrate “success,” jumping through the hoops designated by the government officials and investors who set up “pay for success” deals. “Education” will thus be transformed into a grueling, gamified exercise carried out in an augmented reality, surveillance world from which there is no escape, until perhaps one reaches the “gray” stage. Each point along the path is clearly identified, so profit can be continuously harvested as long as some level of “growth” is shown. Increasingly “growth” will entail students and older knowledge workers performing appropriate mindsets. That is why demonstrations of social-emotional competencies have become more and more central to the “educational” process.

For financiers, it is never too soon for children to start building portfolios of badges. Curating a desirable data brand from birth will be key to becoming a successful competitor in the artificial intelligence hiring, global platform, gig-economy Hunger Games. They are attempting to delude people into thinking that if they can log every aspect of their life as a job qualification, they will have a better shot at employment; when in fact, the micro-credential race will enable employers to more effectively pit workers against one another and regulate society using “educational” micro-debt products.

Even though “philanthropists” have put unborn children on Blockchain in Tanzania, and toddlers on Blockchain in South Africa, I expect someone made the calculation that it was not yet palatable to do that in the United States. A better point of entry here is the high school transcript. People would likely question the need to assign a digital identity to a three year old, but by framing it as an “improved” high school transcript, one that could be linked to “free college” no less, adoption of digital identities for workforce development could slip in with few realizing the magnitude of what actually happened.

Thus a generation of children is about to be transformed, on Blockchain, as raw material for the “impact economy,” a system that will run on predictive profiling and real time “smart city” data aggregation. This is what is being discussed now in Davos under the banner of “stakeholder capitalism,” neoliberal poverty management carried out as an extension of the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals. This apparatus is designed to profit the global elite, as refugees and the global poor will be forced to code the geo-fenced digital jails meant to contain them. Offering up their unfree labor will thus become a prerequisite to survive in a world where human labor is rapidly being made obsolete by 5G, robots, and the internet of things.

Union Public Schools in Tulsa, which services 19,000 students, signed on to Blockcerts last April. Blockcerts is an alternative credentialing system refined by MIT spin-off Learning Machine. It premiered in the United States at Southern New Hampshire University, which is led by Paul Leblanc, one of the education advisors to Ridge Lane LP. The district’s ninth graders will be issued full digital transcripts when they graduate.

Dallas County Promise is a “scholarship program” set up ostensibly to combat the “skills gap” and aid students in acquiring post-secondary credentials. In reality it is just as much about creating an apparatus to grow human capital impact investment markets. Last year the program partnered with Manoj Kutty’s Greenlight Credentials and Salesforce.

According to Global Education Futures Initiative advisory board member Tom Vander Ark, this digital transcript will allow Dallas students to “tell their whole story.” Of course we know that means tracking in demand “soft skills” that will inform future investors of a person’s perceived worth as “human capital.” According to a project overview by Salesforce, which provides technical support for the program’s “Education Cloud” digital nudge service, students who sign up for the program are immediately put on a “communications journey.” Thus the digital processing and compliance monitoring begins.

Commit! managed by Todd Williams, a former Goldman Sachs executive, is a partner in the Dallas County Promise effort. It is one of the largest and most influential “collective impact” programs in the country. More background on Commit’s collaboration with DataKind to engineer “gap-closing” “solutions” by deploying social impact finance can be found on Lynn Davenport’s write up here.

There are other big money players in on the game. JP Morgan Chase provided the seed funding for Dallas’s “free college” program. JP Morgan has made numerous significant donations to organizations involved in the privatization of public education, “evidence-based” policies, and the development of “stackable credential” systems.  See map below. Interactive version here.

Dallas County Promise JP Morgan

In the spring of 2019 a $1.1 billion bond was passed to expand the operations of the Dallas County Community College District. The bond’s passage was, however, contested by Kurt Launius who filed a lawsuit charging voting irregularities. Launius submitted over 4,500 pages of evidence to back up his claims.

Commit’s offices are located directly across the street from Old Parkland, which I will describe in more detail below. That office complex houses the Dallas Foundation and Tom Luce’s Texas 2036. Human capital speculation is big, big business – a bipartisan business – and it seems a lot of the groundwork is being laid within the leafy confines of that exclusive campus. The futures of coming generations are wrapped up in the calculated conversations going on behind closed doors. The map below shows relationships between Commit!, Old Parkland tenants, and special guests of Harlan Crow. These guests were identified on a framed document seen hanging outside Crow’s fancy Debate Room. Interactive version of map here.

Old Parkland

Under the banner of “convenience,” coming generations will be turned into data commodities, their behavioral compliance to authoritarian systems recorded on Blockchain. Thus they can be risk-profiled, their futures exchanged as data in service of global markets. While some still cling to the idea that we’re headed towards a Star Trek techno-utopia, it feels far more likely our destination will more closely resemble the panopticon of Zamyatin’s 1921 novel “We.”

The screen shots below are taken from the education timeline created by the Global Education Futures Initiative.

GEF Human Capital Investment

Peopleonaire - Human Capital Investments

From Global Education Futures Initiative, see maps and posters tab, here.

During my visit to Dallas I dropped in to check out the Debate Room at Old Parkland, described by the Dallas News as the most expensive, invitation-only office space in the city. Originally a hospital that closed in the 1980s and sat vacant for many years,  Harlan Crow bought it from the city in 2006 and developed it as an enclave where the public-private partnership deals of the impact economy and “smart city” development could be hammered out.

It is telling that the architecture and artwork bolsters the mythology of America’s founding fathers as an ideal to be embraced. According to the Dallas news feature:

“This is an American fantasyland created by Crow as an homage to the American Experiment. Towering bronze statues of founding fathers George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin stand as sentinels at three buildings. ‘The idea was to celebrate the ideas of the American founding using specific founders, but also their intellectual antecedents from the Enlightenment,’ says Crow, who’s more than just a history buff. ‘So there’s a lot of John Locke and Adam Smith and guys from the Enlightenment who never came to America but who greatly influenced the founders.’”

But as Tim Scott lays out in his meticulous analysis of The Duplicitous U.S. Constitution published in Dissident Voice in 2017, such myths have always been and continue to be used to mask the ongoing violence that defines our national psyche.

“A nation where private property rights are akin to natural rights, therefore framing capitalism, no matter how brutal, with benevolent intent and thus inviolable. These structural foundations, which are rooted within the barbarism of chattel slavery and the brutality of gender oppression, constructed an enduring national culture defined by genocide, dispossession, white supremacy, anti-blackness, heteropatriarchy, misogyny, social inequity and wealth inequality. Over three centuries later, despite significant efforts by resistance movements to transform it, this underlying national culture persists; entwined within an era where mass surveillance, mass incarceration, unprecedented wealth inequality and unending militarism are perversely justified as imperatives to preserve freedom, democracy and the mythical ‘American Dream.’”

We have arrived at the threshold of techno-fascism precisely because so many cling to myths of “enlightened” white men. Many of these men advanced revolution so they could profit from illegal land speculation. They included men who owned and raped enslaved Black women while issuing statements such as the one featured on an Old Parkland bronze lamppost: “I prefer a rebellious liberty to a peaceful slavery.” That was Jefferson’s letter to Madison in 1787. These contradictions can no longer hold. We are the supply chain, all of us. Once human labor is no longer needed for manufacturing, service and knowledge work, the sole value most of us will possess is our willingness to serve the system as obedient impact commodities. The protections offered by whiteness, professional credentials, and meritocracy will no longer apply.

Now is the time to start acknowledging our long-standing American nightmare. Blockchain identity will usher in neo-slavery at an unimaginable scale. As a society we have never reckoned with the fact that our wealth and power as a nation was built on genocide, land theft, enslavement and forced labor. Soon many more people will be staring into the great maw of late stage capitalism, our futures foreclosed as robots and algorithms are trained to replace us.

So, how will we proceed? Will we begin to address our brutal history? Will we strive for right relations with one another and the planet? Will we build a world where ALL people enjoy self-determination and equal opportunity for fulfilling, life-sustaining work? Where resources are shared in a spirit of abundance, turning our backs on imposed scarcity and brutal competition?

Will we push back against oligarchs who meet in sumptuous basement rooms festooned with Greek inscriptions and inscrutable coins inset into the paneling? Where bad art and bronze plaques extoll the idea of people as private property, targets for debt collectors who seek to profit from mass dispossession?

Now is the time. Given the disturbing Ides of March painting that presides over the Old Parkland Debate Room, we should be very concerned about the extent to which their plans are already in motion.

Images of Old Parkland

Ides Of March

A painting depicting The Ides Of March dominates the debate room. The Ides of March was a time for debt collection. Following the assassination of Julius Caesar, Rome was plunged into a period of civil war.

Old Parkland Exterior

Exterior View Coming Up Oak Lawn Avenue

Old Parkland Map

Map Showing Debate Room, Dallas Foundation, Texas 2036, and Commit! Offices

Old Parkland Gues 1Old Parkland Guests 2Parkland Guests 3

Guests of Old Parkland 2006-2016

GueFreedom's Charge

Freedom’s Charge Statue In Interior Courtyard

John Locke

Consider this plaque at the entrance to the building that houses the debate chamber within the context of Blockchain identity and global human capital impact investing.

Debate Room

Debate Chamber, 75 Seats

Debate Room Foyer

Atrium at Debate Chamber Entrance: DNA, Steve Jobs, Nixon, Churchill and FDR with Eisenhower. Note lamp posts.

Defend PropertyAdam Smith Man Lives By ExchangingAdams Property Must Be SecuredLamp Dangerous Liberty

Statements On Lamp Bases Speaking to Protection of Private Property

Presidential Portraits

Bush Allegory

Allegory of 9/11 With Founding Fathers

References to Antiquity In Debate Room

Steve Jobs

Homage to Steve Jobs and Technology


Operation Relentless Pursuit: Test Beds For “Smart City” Signals Intelligence?

On January 7, 2020 Black Alliance for Peace – Baltimore issued a demand that public officials reject a planned surge of militarized policing authorized by the Trump administration. Operation Relentless Pursuit is targeting Baltimore and six other mid-size cities, all of which have significant Black and Brown populations. The others include: Detroit, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Kansas City, Memphis, and Albuquerque. Representatives of the FBI, DEA, AFT, and US Marshall Service were present at the Department of Justice’s December 18, 2019 press conference.

I write this post as a statement of solidarity in support of their demands and to examine this operation in light of my recent work around policing, diversion courts, and prison “reform” as a global investment market. I have concerns that some of the funds associated with this vile operation may be channeled into problematic technological systems. Residents of these cities could end up as test-subjects for new forms of militarized digital surveillance intended to further harm Black and Brown communities while allowing military interests to refine the signals intelligence required for future urban military actions. Data collected under the pretense of crime reduction could also create baselines to expand futures markets in human capital (pay for success). Baltimore, in particular, is home to major players in the global impact investing space. Among them: the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Catholic Relief Services, Johns Hopkins, and Yet Analytics.

Baltimore Impact Investing and Innovation

Interactive map of Baltimore Impact Investing and Government Innovation here.

According to the Black Alliance for Peace – Baltimore’s statement, these cities all participate in the Defense Logistics Agency’s 1033 Program, which permits police departments to secure surplus military equipment. The statement goes on to say, “Related is the ‘Deadly Exchange’ program, which is a massive exchange between the U.S. and the Israeli police and Israeli military where hyper-militarized techniques and technologies are shared.”

Five of Operation Relentless Pursuit’s cities are partners with Bloomberg Philanthropies “What Works Cities.” The program promotes municipal “innovation” with data-driven policies and public-private partnerships that provide cover for hostile corporate takeovers of ostensibly public assets. These programs are advanced through donations of in-kind consulting services to governments, provided by fellows from Bloomberg’s iTeams. Last year Israel’s Ministry of the Interior set up a “civic innovation” program in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies to install change agents in twelve Israeli communities.

The program, called Hazira, is located in Tel Aviv. Sir Ronald Cohen’s Israeli office of Social Finance, originator of the first social impact bond, is located there as well. We are living within an increasingly militarized web woven by global financial interests. Activists must always be making connections between policing actions and economic violence carried out at home and abroad. For transnational global capital, borders are fluid; it is for the masses that borders and biometrics are deployed to impose control. Technologies devised to manage one population; whether British prisoners, the children of Gaza, or the homeless of Austin, spread like viruses. For this reason solidarity among cities and through international channels will be vital as we all face the violence of late-stage capitalism.

What Works Cities Bloomberg

Interactive map of What Works Cities here.



Militarization of urban environments by public and private security forces (including robots) is a growing concern. In September of 2019 a story in Newsweek revealed that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement sought to procure “hyper-realistic training devices” that would include up to fifty new prop buildings constructed at Fort Benning, Georgia. Just shy of a million dollars was budgeted for two replicas: a Chicago model and an Arizona model. It appears the government is leveraging brutal immigration enforcement policies to launch a training program for domestic counter-insurgent warfare. This is not surprising given the economic and social unrest anticipated to ramp up as the Fourth Industrial Revolution progresses.

In a 2017 interview with Ann Marie Slaughter of New America at a symposium on the future of war, Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed the need for the US army to optimize for urban warfare stating that provisions were being made to design tanks and helicopters to fit these new terrain requirements (clip here). Later in the conference Eric Schmidt of Alphabet / Google, a funder of New America, stated that the future of war would be shaped by advances in artificial intelligence (AI), computer vision, and pattern recognition (clip here) leading to an increase in lethality from precision weaponry. These sentiments are affirmed by a 2016 report prepared by Mitre for US Army TRADOC D-2 Mad Scientist Megacities and Dense Urban Areas Initiative. The document describes the need for robust systems of data collection and analysis in cities via sensor networks.

Mad Scientists Urban MegaCities

Source, page 16 here.

In October of 2017 I attended a public meeting on the future of policing hosted by Azavea in conjunction with the International Police Chiefs Conference. At the end of the Q&A then CIO of Philadelphia, Charles Brennan, stated the future of policing was facial recognition software, predictive analytics, and drone surveillance. Robert Cheetham, a colleague of Brennan’s who founded Azavea after being trained in landscape architecture at UPenn and initiating GIS mapping for the Philadelphia police department, had lobbied for city’s “open-data” policy.

Cheetham capitalized on that free data, creating Hunchlab, a predictive policing software program, which was sold back to Philadelphia and other cities where Black people have been killed or assaulted by police including East St. Louis and Chicago. According to this history of the project, the NSF actually funded the research used to develop the for-profit Hunchlab platform. For more on Hunchlab and the rise of predictive policing software I recommend Bilel Benbouzid’s 2019 article from Big Data Society, “To Predict and to manage. Predictive policing in the United States.”

Future of Policing Azavea

Azavea event description here.

Drones or UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) are important. Anyone who’s been following state intervention into resistance movements, including pipeline protests, knows that drones are go-to tools of law enforcement. In 2015, the state of North Dakota even passed a law permitting police to equip drones with non-lethal weapons. A 2019 article put out by Curt Fleming on behalf of the International Association of Chiefs of Police suggests that with strategic education and legislative changes, nests of drones could be mounted on public buildings in service of urban policing within the decade.

Drone Nests

Drone policing source here.

Aerial surveillance is not limited to drones/UAVs, but can include satellite imagery and even planes equipped with industrial cameras. In Baltimore, a plane-based monitoring program is being reinstated after having been quashed due to its secretive nature back in 2016. At the time John Arnold, a key figure in impact market development and reentry services, was found to have been underwriting the program. Persistent Surveillance Systems provided the monitoring using military technology developed for use in Iraq. Undisclosed philanthropists are funding this next round of the program, which involves three planes flying over the city for four to six months.

Drone Surveillance Persistent Software Systems

More information here.

Again think about the military goal of training algorithms for pattern recognition. Imagine all this data being captured about our social relations in urban environments. Any small sliver may not be actionable, but in aggregate and funneled into enormous data lakes, these feeds will undoubtedly begin to exert tremendous control over civic life. As if Internet of Things-based predictive policing were not bad enough, consider what it would mean to layer in risk-profiling of individuals and communities for social impact investments.

We know truancy is an impact metric. Could UAV or plane surveillance data be used to target “impactful” interventions for families of children deemed to be at risk? How about addiction? Will aerial surveillance or Internet of Things Data be used to track substance users in a given census tract? Could policing extend to monitoring the retinal scans of users of supportive housing if they are under state supervision?

Even something as seemingly innocuous as infrastructure for a public transit app opens the door wider to surveillance as is seen in this US Department of Transportation “smart city” application prepared by the City of Albuquerque (which was not ultimately funded). In this excerpt you can see the impetus for the mesh network was ostensibly to track buses and allow building inspectors to upload data, but it also would have made police access to surveillance cameras and criminal records easier, too.

Albuquerque Smart City Surveillance

Source “Beyond Traffic The Smart City Challenge” Albuquerque here.

So, it appears the US military anticipates a future of urban warfare, likely within our borders. They are adapting their capabilities to this environment, which had previously been according to Milley “sub-optimized.” The weapons will be informed by AI, and their effectiveness will require lots of training data. The more data that is fed into these systems, the better its “pattern recognition” will be. Now, consider the ways in which digital surveillance has been normalized, particularly in cities, under the pretense of creating “safer” environments. Consider widespread adoption of body cameras, which Axon Enterprise (formerly Taser), distributed for “free” to police departments. The company has been data-mining that footage to refine its own AI.

Seventy-one million federal dollars have been budgeted for Operation Relentless Pursuit. While I anticipate much of that will be used to pay for traditional mechanisms of policing, the press release does state funds can be used for “mission critical equipment and technology.” The seven cities being targeted are all part of the big data, government agenda. They’re involved in “smart city” planning efforts, have “open data” portals, and are collaborating with social impact investment / municipal “innovation” interests through Living Cities and the Bloomberg-backed “What Works” Cities program. Four of the seven municipalities are participants in the Strive Together “Cradle to Career” network, and four are part of the MacArthur Foundation’s “Safety + Justice” Challenge. Several are working with the Behavioral Insights Team, “nudge” consulting.

Operation Relentless Pursuit Map

Interactive map of Operation Relentless Pursuit here.

So-called “smart” city sensor networks and “open data” policies that digitally track public engagement with municipal services need to be viewed as tools of signals intelligence. While touted as enabling cost-effective and accountable budgeting, data-driven e-government is actually about ceding community control to predictive analytics and risk assessment algorithms.

This transition is advancing:

1) lean efficiencies / labor automation that will result in widespread poverty

2) the engineering of labor markets in service of transnational global capital

3) the creation of human capital investment markets where people = data

The hub that permits all of this to move forward is the carceral state: policing, courts, custody, and state supervision. Policing should be understood to include not just municipal law enforcement, but the “soft” policing of welfare officials, state and federal law enforcement, the US military, as well as private security forces. All enact violence against poor communities, though the methods vary. The carceral state works hand-in-hand with “smart cities” and IoT deployment.

The signals intelligence of data-driven policing and justice will be used to:

1) identify and confront threats to systems of control / contain the impoverished

2) absorb surplus labor as living wage jobs disappear

3) justify and document cost-off sets needed to run “pay for success” impact deals

Smart City Policing

IoT Policing Poverty


Efforts are underway to portray the “digitally harmonized citizen” of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as an innovative entrepreneur who will be able to pursue a prosperous “personalized” future through 5G / Internet of Things edge computing. In fact, the vast majority of folks will instead be predictively profiled into permanent poverty and mined for their data as human capital investments. That is the intent behind the big-money interests of the Living Cities and What Works Cities initiatives.

Harmonization of Digital Citizen IEEE.jpg


The map below shows the linkages in Cincinnati between Procter and Gable, the Internet of Things, and Strive Together / Knowledgeworks’ human capital tracking programs. On the right are the seven cities of Relentless Pursuit in orange. All but one are linked to either a Strive “cradle to career” or MacArthur / Collective Shift LRNG program of badge/place-based “lifelong” learning in cities (see my post on navigating whiteness). The bottom section features select partnerships the MacArthur Foundation has supported to structure data around the carceral cost off-sets needed to underpin profit taking from the“human capital” management / processing / surveillance of populations deemed “at risk.” To the left of that are links to IEEE and some of the mechanics of digital citizenship. Finally the left side shows the tentacles of the Rockefeller Foundation in the impact investing space. The Rockefeller Foundation is but one of eighteen influential funders working through Living Cities.

Relentless Pursuit Living Cities

Interactive version of Relentless Pursuit / Living Cities map here.

Policy pushers with Ivy League degrees know there will be resistance to what is coming. Government officials attending all of these “Future of Work” panels know it, too. What they need is to have systems in place to predict unrest and contain it, preferably so that the people who already have most of the money make even money; because that is how the machine runs. I suspect that the technologies that will be deployed as part of this operation will begin to address those needs. Perhaps these seven cities are test beds to try out options for military signals intelligence AND human capital data monitoring.

Operation Relentless Pursuit will not improve quality of life in these seven cities. It will be yet another layer added onto a toxic accretion of racist policing. This phase may, however, impose more sophisticated tools of surveillance and data analysis than have been previously seen. It will also serve to push up the number of people under state supervision, so that when human capital impact markets begin to scale, the cost-offsets of mass incarceration have been maximized. Gang-related profiling will likely be used to create baselines for expanding juvenile justice related impact investing; the same for substance users and “evidence-based” addiction treatments. In the end it’s ultimately about building global markets and shutting down dissent.

Brandon Walker of Ujima People’s Progress Party gave an extensive interview about Operation Relentless Pursuit and his view of situation in Baltimore. He expressed a deep desire to reassert community control in response to the systematic and chronic abdication of responsibility carried out by public agencies and elected officials for decades. I suspect similar sentiments are shared in the six other cities. The What Works / Living Cities model is the antithesis of that. Liberation won’t come from an open data portal. Look what we got in Philadelphia – predictive policing software. I write to express my solidarity with Mr. Walker and community members in the other six cities who find themselves in the cross-hairs of Operation Relentless Pursuit, a terrible misdirection of federal funds with tremendous potential for violence to be used against innocent people.

Our collective futures depend on stopping wars at home, including Operation Relentless Pursuit, and the wars abroad. People are hurting. We need the 67 cents of every taxpayer dollar spent on defense to be redirected to poor communities so they can have a voice, self-determination, and start build the world we need; a world of peace where the machines of mass incarceration and militarization are completely dismantled.

If this sounds compelling, check out the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign’s #LivesOverLuxury March on the Democratic National Convention planned for July 13, 2020 in Milwaukee. Find more information here.

Lives Over Luxury




#LivesOverLuxury: The Poor People’s Army Will March on the DNC in Milwaukee on July 13, 2020

Today the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign officially launches preparations for the 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee where we plan to march to demand an end to the wars at home and abroad. The 67 cents of every taxpayer dollar that is devoted to waging war must instead be used to meet our responsibilities to those in need here at home. The theme of the march, #LivesOverLuxury, speaks to the brutality of wealth inequality, gentrification, and dispossession. The Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign is an organization advocating for the rights of poor and is led by poor people. This afternoon there will be a press conference in Milwaukee. Press release below. 


January 9, 2020 PRESS CONTACTS
Cheri Honkala: 215-869-4753
Galen Tyler: 215-883-9771 

The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC) and the Poor People’s Army announce the #LivesOverLuxury March on the DNC, that will be held opening day of the Democratic National Convention on July 13, 2020 at 4:00 p.m.

MEMBERS OF THE POOR PEOPLE’S ARMY WILL BE ON HAND JANUARY 10 AT 2:00 P.M., AT FISERV FORUM ON THE SE CORNER OF 6TH ST AND WEST JUNEAU IN MILWAUKEE, WI, the site of this summer’s DNC, to speak to the press and public about plans for the march and the teach-in they are holding.

Cheri Honkala, a formerly homeless mother, antipoverty advocate, and
founder of PPEHRC, will provide details of the march. Also present will
be other PPEHRC leaders who organize and educate around issues impacting youth, student debt, community and police violence, climate crises, lack of living wage jobs, and homelessness.

“I want to encourage everyone to come out and address this epidemic, the
endless gun violence, that exists in our communities, especially the
African American community,” said Jamal Johnson, of Stop Killing Us
organization. “Also want to make all aware that we are the solution to
the problem, so we must galvanize to combat it. That’s in a country that
spends $50 million on security for a week at the DNC but abandons
addressing the violence at home.”

“People don’t have a place to live, they’re dying. There’s homeless
people right here in Milwaukee, and violence at home and abroad,” said
Honkala. “As Dr. King said, humankind must put an end to war or war will
put an end to humankind.”

Since 2000, PPEHRC has had the largest marches outside both the
Democratic and Republican National Conventions each election year. This
year, at a time so crucial for the future of humanity and the planet,
PPEHRC will amass the largest Poor People’s Army this country has ever
seen outside the DNC to take back the $.67 of every government dollar
spent on war and occupation, to end poverty and all forms of violence at
home and abroad.

PPEHRC is dedicated to building a movement that unites the poor across
color lines. Poverty afflicts people of all colors. Every day more and
more people are downsized and impoverished. Millions of Americans are in
poverty, and millions more working and middle class people are just
paychecks away, or medical bankruptcies away. from homelessness and

With the world’s press and attention on the theatrics at the Democratic
and Republican conventions, the Poor People’s Army will put poor people
front and center in a historic march that will demand a different kind
of world where the world’s resources are protected and used to meet the
basic needs of all people. The march and teach-in will feature speakers
and performers from across the country.

Lives Over Luxury

Andy Willis, our comrade from Chicago, created an amazing poster to promote the event. Because of my research I was asked to write up a brief description to go with it, even though the visual alone is incredibly powerful. The take-away is that while we are up against incredible odds, and our government (both sides) has completely sold us out, we should not despair, but instead organize. Poor people, working class people DO have power; what is needed is to come together. Organizing for this march and week-long teach-in provides just such an opportunity. 


We face a disruptive future brought about by climate catastrophe, militarization, wealth inequality and the automation of labor. The global elite have deprived the masses of a living wage, access to stable housing, healthy food, and quality healthcare. We are at a tipping point. Millions are cast out of their communities, disconnected from one another and social institutions. With so many adrift in media noise, drugs, and violence it is vital that we focus, organize, and begin to restore authentic connections and systems of mutual aid to prepare for what is to come.

Those in power intend to manage global disruption profitably and brutally. That infrastructure is being put in place now, branded as “smart” city technologies. Cloud computing, Internet of Things sensors, artificial intelligence, and Blockchain feed signals intelligence to US Defense interests. Sophisticated systems of surveillance and militarized policing are sneaking in behind innocuous programs like transit apps and digital payment systems. We are unthinkingly adopting life-killing technologies that will force the poor into open-air jails as we poison the planet. There is nothing “smart” about systems that demand the mining of rare minerals by child labor and vast quantities of clean water to cool server farms, not to mention e-waste. 

Hedge funds plan to use technology not only to police us, but also to nudge our actions and digitize us as data. Then they can gamble on our identities, our futures as human capital assets, securitized and traded on derivatives markets. The poor will be biometrically linked to benefit vouchers and tracked through the Internet of Things panopticon. The price of living in this world of austerity is behavioral compliance. Stay on the pathways, or else. This is a bipartisan scheme where elected officials front for IBM, Oracle, Cisco, HP, Intel, and Qualcomm. Leaders swap out at election cycles, but the “what works” data-driven government machine stays on its destructive course, lining the pockets of Goldman Sachs and Blackstone as we get ever closer to the edge of the cliff.

But this future is not preordained; it can and will be contested. We will fight inhumanity with relationships. Our clarity is an antidote for corporate propaganda. Together we will channel our creativity and expose these sickening schemes while making provisions to care for one another with shared resources. Endorse the march, make a donation, and connect with the Poor Peoples’ Army. More information, including a #LivesOverLuxury toolkit, available here. I am planning to attend. If you are in the Philadelphia area and want more information, get in touch with me through the blog.

Prison “Reform” To Incarcerate The World: “Smart” Justice & Global Finance

Imposition of social control through brutal policing, incarceration, state supervision, exorbitant fines, and forced labor has a long, well-documented history in the United States. The ongoing harm, and devastating legacy of trauma linked to it, disproportionately affects Indigenous and Black communities, the very ones upon whose stolen land and labor this nation’s wealth has been extracted. Dismantling the prison industrial complex MUST be a priority, and yet care should be taken that we do not allow short-term “wins” to inadvertently pave the way for long-term disasters.

For the past month and a half I’ve been attempting to sort out the deep-pocketed interests behind what is being represented as prison “reform.” Many names I encountered were familiar to me from my previous education and impact investing research including the MacArthur, Ford, and Casey Foundations, Arnold Ventures, and Chan Zuckerberg. The same folks aiming to engineer the futures of preschoolers as human capital have their sights on incarcerated populations, too.

There’s actually quite a lot of overlap between communities accepting MacArthur Foundation “Safety + Justice” grants and those involved in “cradle to career” efforts implemented through Strive Together and other “collective impact” organizations. I will discuss this more in future posts, but below is a map to give you a sense of it. Use the link to the interactive version to zoom in and get a closer look.

Strive Together Safety + Justice

Interactive map of MacArthur / Strive Together Communities here.

In the impact investing space, the predator class targets the vulnerable, because that’s where the money is. With well-orchestrated PR they often come out looking like the hero. My intent is to disrupt this narrative while alerting activists to the evolving nature of state control as the grip of the Fourth Industrial Revolution tightens. Transnational global capital’s end game? In my assessment it is to digitally incarcerate the world’s poor, in part by co-opting the language of prison “reform” and data-driven “justice.”

Community As Prison

I fear that given rapid advances in the deployment of 5G and “smart” city Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, in the coming decade the criminal justice reform narrative could become inverted, flipping our present understanding of incarceration inside out. In this new paradigm, “community as prison,” one’s movement would be tied to digital identity systems interacting with sensors that can grant or deny access and privileges. This is happening in China now with social credit scoring.

Blockchain Foshan


Through augmented reality, those in power can geo-fence the world, coding it not just for the purposes of targeted advertising, but to literally engineer social systems at a massive scale. See the feature image and imagine the cattle replaced with people.

Through continued, systematic criminalization of poverty, large segments of the population could be thrust into state oversight, channeled through community courts, mental health courts, addiction courts, and any number of alternative diversion programs. Once caught in this web they become raw material, set up for data-mining by ed-tech, workforce training, tele-medicine, and tele-therapy interventions to profit self-congratulatory “social impact” investors.

Incarceration is an effective, though immoral, means by which the ruling class manages labor. See how the war on drugs and mandatory minimums fostered the development of profit-making enterprises serving prisons even as massive numbers of jobs were lost to off-shoring / globalization over the past three decades. The possibility that vast pools of surplus labor will soon be created through automation, artificial intelligence and robotics is a serious concern.

Inslee 4th Industrial Revolution Center


It’s hard to imagine what it would look like to build and maintain enough prisons and pay security forces to hold the workers made redundant by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. There must be some cost-benefit analysis out there indicating with proper planning it will be cheaper and create more business opportunities to build open-air digital jails: people forced to find their own food and shelter; drones as guards; Blockchain offering a potent behavior chart, leaderboard, debt account, payment system combo.

Historically, violent policing and expansive carceral efforts have paralleled periods of economic unrest. I hope as I connect the dots between Gaza, Chancheng, Cape Town, and Austin, readers will see that international solidarity is crucial as poor and working class people around the world face off against the machine of militarized transnational global capital. We have a lot to learn from one another, especially those experiencing first hand what it’s like to live under state control.

Impact Investing And Weaponized “Reform” 

Austerity has crippled the public sector, allowing it to be commandeered by corporate interests through corrupt partnerships. Esteemed business professors, social policy researchers, foundation program officers, opportunistic government officials, and non-profit CEOs enjoying a “seat at the table” have teamed up to turn poverty into gold under the banner of “social impact.” Investors are scrambling over one another as the last dregs of profit are siphoned from the intense misery created by unbounded capitalist greed.

Philadelphia Poverty Committee Philanthropy


It is that misery that ensnares millions in judicial nightmares. The precarious nature of the gig economy, wage stagnation, impossible costs of living, and untreated trauma are leading more and more people to engage in survival tactics that run afoul of the law.

That mass incarceration is a profit-making enterprise is well known, but few realize the dangerous and exploitative nature of human capital data markets being established within the prison industrial complex. Provisions for “evidence-based” anti-recidivism interventions written into the 2018 First Step Act support these efforts.

The First Step Act Recidivism.jpg

Source: The First Step Act

This new mechanism to turn human lives into debt instruments has been made possible by recent developments in the finance and technology sectors. The pay for success schemes (PFS) linked to justice “reform” that are coming online now are branded as “progressive;” however, if one scratches below the surface, even a bit, it is easy to see they in fact double-down on neoliberal policy and open the doors to widespread data-exploitation.

Social impact bonds (SIBs) and PFS are two important items in technocracy’s poverty-mining tool kit. PFS is the term more commonly used now, though both are essentially government contracts for outsourced public services tied to performance metrics; metrics that will eventually be verified by Internet of Things sensors linked to digital identity systems. If you’re curious about the latter, do a keyword search for Vinay Gupta, Mattereum, and Internet of Agreements. Non-profits that sign on to these contracts secure funding from private investors whose profit varies depending on whether or not those serviced meet the agreed-upon “social impact” measures.

Prisons and diversion programs are easy targets for financiers and their nonprofit and higher-ed enablers. Since incarcerated people are systematically and disproportionately impoverished, traumatized, and inflicted with chronic illness and addiction, they represent a vast, relatively untapped reservoir of human capital to be transformed as financialized assets in the speculative scheme of “social impact” finance. In 2019, Bloomberg Philanthropies awarded a million dollar grant to the Philadelphia police department for a “juvenile justice hub” diversion program. Bloomberg also funded the Riker’s Island social impact bond and has advanced a data-driven “what works” approach to public service delivery.

Bloomberg Hub For Justice


The data-driven framework within which services must be offered poisons the entire enterprise, engendering a culture of scarcity, stress, and perpetual surveillance. Placed on behaviorist pathways, those under state supervision will be expected to conform to the existing broken system, and through their compliance, increase their perceived asset value by delivering the “growth” data technocrats are compelled to present as evidence their interventions “work.” PFS does not offer structural change, but instead allows destructive, privatized systems to continue to wreak havoc on the lives of both service workers and those ostensibly being “served.” The structure of these deals compels individuals to jump through hoop after bureaucratic hoop, their circumstances rarely materially improving, as they generate impact payments for the rich and justify the continued existence of a professional poverty management class.

If you’re new to the blog and want to know more about pay for success finance, I encourage you to read this post that describes a panel presentation I participated in at the Left Forum in July 2019 with the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign. Justin Leroy, Tim Scott, and Cameron Graham have done groundbreaking work in this area, and links to their work are available on this post along with a video I made about SIBs for those who may want to take a deeper dive.

Global Finance Calls The Shots

As is often the case, reformist language and policies advanced by think-tanks are fundamentally at odds with demands for true reform put forth by incarcerated people, their loved ones, and their communities. Organizations like the Urban Institute and the Justice Center of the Council of State Governments have been promoting broad use of PFS in the criminal justice system.

Urban Institute Pay For Success


It is my belief that in the face of rising authoritarianism, growing wealth inequality, intensifying racism, and increasing criminalization of poverty, solidifying a grassroots movement that can begin to dismantle systems of domination OUTSIDE the nonprofit industrial complex is vital. Nonprofits have been remade by Hewlett Packard through a decade of strategic grants to serve the data-driven requirements of the social impact investment sector. We must be clear. The revolution will not be funded; and it most certainly will not be funded through the venture philanthropy of the Rockefeller Foundation, Third Sector Capital Partners, or Sir Ronald Cohen.

As Tim Scott notes in his article, Resistance in the 21st Century and the Futility of Reforming Fundamentally Vicious Systems, “the state-finance nexus reaches deeply into the daily lives of billions of people across the globe…” He goes on to describe complex relationships between finance capital and authoritarian state power, a web of socio-technical control that predicts, course-corrects and integrates resistance into its treacherous operating system.

We are living in a society that attempts to normalize brutality and callousness, even as many individuals see the grave harms being done and attempt to ameliorate suffering where they can. We are dealing with a system of supposed “democracy” that rests as Scott notes in his history of common schooling “on the intersecting structures of capitalism, white supremacy, settler colonialism, and hetero-patriarchy.” That profit-taking investments in subjugated populations should be framed as benevolent undertakings comes as no surprise. And yet it is the imperative of all who strive for justice to look beyond these myths, to see the truth, and to circumvent this grotesque system where possible, finding common cause with like-minded folks who are also working to make a different future. Keeping a narrow view and ignoring the bigger picture will not serve us well in the end.

Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley’s call this November for a “People’s Justice Guarantee,” a Green New Deal for criminal justice reform, motivated me to step up my research. While Pressley’s analysis that our criminal legal system is “racist, xenophobic, rogue, and fundamentally flawed,” is totally on point, I have grave concerns that proposals being advanced around diversion and reentry will likely become opportunities for predatory PFS deals.

IJIS Evidence Based Pay for Success

Source: Corrections Tech 2020, Trend #5 Evidence-Based Population Management, page 33.

Massachusetts, Pressley’s home state, launched a ROCA social impact bond in 2014, to provide services to judicially involved youth. Massachusetts is also home to institutions of higher education that are active players in the space. Harvard’s Kennedy School has created and incubated policies to scale many, many PFS projects within its Government Performance Lab, and MIT has refined much of the fin-tech infrastructure needed to run the predictive analytics and begin automating verification of deals. There is a sizable appetite for PFS among Massachusetts’s venture capital crowd, and there will be a terrible temptation to adopt such deals in order to fund services for those caught in the carceral web. Remember, government operates at the behest of global finance.

Alternative sentencing, diversion courts, reentry, and even restorative justice are already being targeted as profit centers for impact investing.

How to fix cash bail? Pay for success! (here)

How to pay for indigent defense? Pay for success! (here)

How to provide workforce development for ex-offenders? Pay for success! (here)

How to provide shelter for those leaving prison? Pay for success! (here)

How to address mental illness (MRT)? Pay for success! (here)

How to fund restorative community conferencing? Pay for success! (here)

It seems they are willing put a price on anything and use it as a cost-offset to profit financiers.

Pay For Success Restorative Justice 2


PFS fuels dispossession. I believe that the creation of investment markets to manage people taken into custody as “social impact” commodities will ultimately incentivize policing of Black and Brown communities and the poor and unhoused. This is why I believe the conversation around mass incarceration must ultimately turn to the abolition of incarceration and policing as we know it.

Dehumanized Data-Driven Services

I want to make it clear from the outset that I believe the vast majority of individuals on the ground working in this space are doing it for the right reasons. That said, we must acknowledge the global forces working to restructure the vast US prison system to accommodate new forms of profit taking in a world of 5g, digital surveillance, public private partnerships, and innovative finance. What many well-intentioned people may not yet grasp, because PFS programs are still fairly new, is that data-driven “smart” justice demands service providers turn the people they are trying to help into data. Data collection that serves the interests of private investors in carceral systems is fundamentally exploitative.

Thriving In An Outcomes Based Market NY SIB


Influential foundations have been seeding markets in human capital performance data for quite a few years through targeted grants to established non-profits, progressive think tanks, and professional associations. Meanwhile for-profit prison companies like CoreCivic and Geo Group are expanding “continuum of care” and reentry services, swapping guards for “social workers.”

Geo Group Continuum of Care Reentry

Tech companies have carved out new markets for their data-mining products, promising to deliver “solutions” that curb recidivism while generating profits for social impact investors. Telecommunications and cloud-based computing interests are eager to manage the petabytes of data generated by “evidence-based” interventions delivered on devices and tracked on dashboards.

IOT and Community Corrections IJIS 2017

Source: Corrections Tech 2020, Trend #5 Evidence-Based Population Management, page 12.

For a detailed overview of planned developments around prison-based technologies, e-carceration, and data management, I highly recommend devoting time to go through the IJIS Institute’s 2017 report Corrections Tech 2020: Technological Trends In Custodial and Community Corrections.

Eric Schmidt of Google/Alphabet has said data is the new oil so valuable that nation states will fight over it. We must recognize that the digital carceral systems coming online now will be rich nodes of data (profit) extraction. These emergent landscapes of control will arise from diversion, community courts, alternative sentencing, the end of cash bail, and early-release programs. What is troubling is that these reforms, which are unquestionably better than ongoing confinement, could, in a cruel twist of fate, open the door to an almost unimaginable level of community surveillance.

Inside Out Prisons: Digital Identities in Smart Cities

People on parole in the Chinese cities of Zhongshan and Foshan are being tracked for compliance in “smart” cities on Blockchain; their behaviors linked to social credit scoring. And while we may be inclined to think such a thing could never happen here, Chinese interests, including TenCent of WeChat pay that is involved in digital identity verification in China, maintains sizeable investments in US-based companies, including EPIC Games whose Unreal Engine is being set up for education and healthcare service delivery by synthetic (virtual) people.

China Blockchain ID

Interactive version of China Blockchain map here.

Tencent Digital ID Verification


Epic games unreal engine


In the coming decade we will see the rise of augmented reality (AR) worlds with integral coded layers that serve state interests. The major force behind AR is In-Q-Tel, the venture capital arm of the CIA. Pair Blockchain surveillance with social impact investing tied to digital identity, which is already online with the Amply app in Cape Town; throw in conditional public benefit access run through an e-wallet; maybe some social credit scoring and artificial intelligence decision-making; and suddenly we’ve upgraded to automated techno-fascism where whole swaths of impoverished cities are targeted by sweeps into diversion courts to sustain the rapacious demands of global PFS impact markets.

Blockchain Home Visits Boa Vista


In a cloud-based, one-click world controlled by transnational global capital, proofs of concept on one side of the planet can show up on the other side in short order. When the power of empire is threatened, when human beings stand in the way of resource extraction, they will be contained and/or eliminated. They’re putting unhoused people on Blockchain in Austin now. If you’re poor in a “smart” city you’re very likely going to end up being predictively profiled into pre-criminality. Far from the imagined utopias we are being sold, “smart” city futures will be built on the brutal legacies of Indian removal, the re-concentration camps of the Spanish American War, and Internment Camps of WWII.

Universal Risk Assessment Legitimizes Surveillance Culture

Risk-profiling all who come into custody became a central feature of the prison system in December 2018 when the First Step Act was signed into law. Civil rights groups including The Movement for Black Lives and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights opposed the controversial legislation, which was celebrated in other quarters as a “breakthrough” bipartisan victory. Of particular relevance to my research were concerns about the roll out of a national “Risk Assessment System,” a tool whose development was overseen by the conservative Hudson Institute, and the expansion of electronic monitoring. The baselines created by mandatory risk-screening tool will provide crucial infrastructure to inform PFS predictive analytics.

First Step Act Risk And Needs Assessment System


Prisons will look and feel different in the coming years, and we must factor that into resistance strategies. The web of corporate-state control will become less visible as e-carceration moves from clunky ankle monitors to more expansive digital “community correction” networks. While permitting more mobility for participation in assigned “pathway” programs, devices will begin to capture the data not only of those who are judicially involved, but also that of their families, neighbors, and broader social networks. We must always remember that the Internet is, at its core, a military weapon developed to serve the demands of empire (see Yasha Levine’s Surveillance Valley for details).

You get a sense of the expanding nature of data collection from those associated with returning citizens in this short video: “Meet Kathy.” Kathy is a “community care coordinator” whose nonprofit is paid whenever a member of Joe’s family meets a performance target on their assigned pathway. Joe’s family has been identified for pathway intervention because he was formerly incarcerated.

Reentry To What?

The brutality of carceral control will not be addressed through minor adjustments to the machine or even a major overhaul. The prison industry is undergoing a transformation framed by the “impact media” as meaningful reform. Vulture philanthropy-funded policy institutes are advancing the premise that we can use performance-based reentry contracts to right the wrongs of racial capitalism. That by carefully measuring gaps in “justice,” those in power will allow us to engineer an efficient route to a non-racist future of reconciliation. But first we need to establish cost offsets so the rich can continue to extract their PFS profit from the machine. The cost to the criminalized poor? Well that is going to be their data and their right to self-determination. That will be the price many will be compelled to pay in order to maintain an engineered life within the panopticon.

Ruthie Gilmore NY Times


I stand with Dr. Angela Davis and Dr. Ruthie Gilmore in support of prison abolition, with the full awareness that the oligarchs’ plans are to make the world a prison. This is a moment that demands international solidarity. We must stand with Gaza, an early test case for biometric border control and with refugees caught in the global aid systems being used to refine biometric-enabled digital payments. We must stand with the people of Chancheng where those on parole are tracked on Blockchain for social credit scoring purposes. We must stand with the children of Cape Town, South Africa where the social capital of preschool children is being monitored on Blockchain with Amply, and with families in Boa Vista, Brazil where cash transfer recipients, the Bolsa Familia, must agree to home visit data being recorded in “digital ledgers” accompanied by digital photographic documentation for impact purposes. We must stand with unhoused folks in Austin, where presidential candidate Bloomberg’s philanthropic dollars are being used to legitimize Blockchain identity systems.

Austin Blockchain


We are witnessing the ramping up of global techno-fascism, a project the ruling class has attempted to wrap in a cloak of “social justice.” Nothing could be further from the truth. None of this is benevolent. These technologies are being advanced quietly now to suppress anticipated dissent later. Digital prisons are being coded around us. Once the masses are no longer of use as consumers, Gates, Omidyar, Zuckerberg and the rest  will flip the switch and start to farm us like domesticated livestock, as social impact securities.

Our focus now must be collective liberation. We must stand together with incarcerated people and the global poor who are are on the front lines of human capital exploitation. Ultimately, this machine is coming after everyone. We cannot sit back and watch as it unfolds, because then it will be too late. Now is the time to get organized and take stand for justice. It is time to face off against the global capitalist police state.

My dear friend T nailed it when she said to me, “Reentry to what?”

And indeed that is the question in this era of increased labor automation, militarized policing, and debt finance. Incarceration has always been fundamentally about profitably managing surplus labor through state violence. That hasn’t changed. Which is why we must keep our eyes open and be ready for the next wave. Now is the time for clarity. This system will not be reformed. Once people realize this, new doors open and together we can begin to chart a revolutionary course forward, centering community-led restorative practice and right relations among the peoples of the world.

Next Up

Topics I plan to explore in future installments include:

  • UN Sustainability Development Goal 16 and the push to measure “justice
  • How the First Step Act’s risk assessment tool will underpin PFS
  • MacArthur Foundation, Risk Profiling, Smart Cities, and Public Safety
  • How Every Student Succeeds Act and Second Chance Pell Grant Act Enable Tablet-Based Profiling and Profit-Taking
  • PFS Housing for the Formerly Incarcerated
  • Diversion Courts and SIBs in Philadelphia




Poverty Won’t Be Solved By Committee: Education For Liberation, Less Data More Freire

The video below is public testimony I gave to the Jobs and Education Subcommittee of Philadelphia City Council’s Special Committee on Poverty Reduction and Prevention on Thursday December 5, 2019 at Dobbins Career and Technical Education High School in North Philadelphia. It is my belief that this committee was created to jump start pay for success initiatives in our city, a city of deep poverty. You can read about the predatory nature of pay for success finance here.

Philadelphia Impact Economy

In 2016, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia prepared a white paper lauding Philadelphia’s potential to become a center for the impact economy. Perhaps we could even aspire to be the Silicon Valley of “impact!” Yes, we have THAT MUCH poverty, and Main Line venture capital interests are falling all over themselves to package the data of misery management for a tidy profit. See my previous post on social impact investing and public education in Philadelphia.

Here is my testimony. It’s about ten minutes long.

*Correction. I misspoke at the beginning of my testimony. Mass school closures in Philadelphia took place in 2015 not 2013.

It was SUCH a long hearing with six official panels and over twenty “approved” speakers. As the final panel wrapped up two-and-a-half hours later, I inquired to see where I was on the list of public speakers. A small group of us, including two wonderful kids who had kept themselves busy drawing on the extra agendas, had been sitting patiently with our banner (Children Are Not Data, Human Capital, Or Impact Investing Opportunities-see featured image) all that time. Only then was I was told there would be only ONE more speaker. The rest of the twenty-plus folks, including me, who had pre-registered with the intention of sharing our thoughts on education, workforce development, and poverty, were out of luck. Too bad.

At that point I loudly protested. I had shared 30+ copies of my testimony with a bunch of folks in the audience letting them know I was on the list to speak. I saw a lot of people reading it. They knew I had things to say, and quite a few nodded in agreement when I spoke up. Ultimately the subcommittee, chaired by Sharmain Matlock-Turner of the Urban Affairs Coalition, acquiesced, allowing those speakers who hadn’t already left (eight of us) to testify. Somehow they STILL left my name off the list even though I had email confirmation from Councilwoman Quinones-Sanchez’s legislative aide who was coordinating that part of the event. Finally, I was told I could sit in the front row. I was the last one to speak.

It should be noted that Pedro Ramos, former School Reform Commission member, president  of the Philadelphia Foundation and advisor to ImpactPHL, left before any members of the public came up to testify. During the “official” panel discussion he had inquired about out-of school work-based learning (including what policy changes would need to be made to allow this to happen in public schools), citing the Christo Rey School franchise as a model. Christo Rey seems to have a rising profile in San Jose, too. San Jose is another City of LRNG with many similarities to Philadelphia, which I describe here. This is something we need keep an eye on given the Vatican’s expressed interest in impact investing.

In my testimony I reference the “Parents As Consumer” symposium that Social Innovation Partners had planned for last June. That event ended up being abruptly cancelled when word got out about the agenda, which included both pay for success AND Education Savings Accounts.

Parents As Consumers ESAs.jpg

Parents As Consumers Agenda

Among the panelists planning to participate in the event, which was hosted by Bucks County State Representative Frank Farry and Nicholas Torres’s impact-investment catalyst Social Innovations Journal, was Brian McElwee. McElwee is an investor, but not just any investor. He is apparently known as a “finder,” which according to an investigative article on him from the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2016 is a kind of matchmaker who connects investment professionals to elected officials who control government contracts. McElwee is also board chair of Independence Mission Schools, a non-parish affiliated Catholic school non-profit that was set up in 2012 to run urban schools in Philadelphia, schools where I expect there is a lot of potential for “measurable impact.”

Indepdence Mission Schools McElwee

Even though the symposium was ultimately cancelled, that event is significant. We must recognize that faith-based initiatives will be a growing aspect of privatization efforts moving forward, and families who have children in ESA-funded alternative work-based Catholic schools are likely to be subjected not only to the expectation of compulsory child labor, but that their data will be harvested for impact investing deals tied to pay for success.

After a very long wait, on my birthday no less,  I felt vindicated. Even though there were only about twenty people left in the audience by the time I presented, I was able to add my extensive findings to the public record. I also asked for the California NAACP resolution opposing linking Blockchain digital identity to public benefit systems, which I referenced at the previous hearing on housing, be added to the record.

Below is that resolution, adopted in the spring of 2019. A similar resolution passed, with overwhelming support, at the national meeting of the NAACP in Detroit in July. I believe the model legislation presented here will be useful in helping educate the public about the dangers of digital tracking systems and to protect targeted populations from predatory finance and Internet of Things surveillance. I encourage folks to bring this information to the organizations of which you are a part, and encourage them to adopt or adapt it to your needs. We need to be proactive as the push to link digital vouchers to pay for success human capital contracts begins to ramp up.

NAACP Blockchain Cropped

I streamed my testimony, and people around the country are watching it. It seems I have been able to put the pieces together in ways others have not. Once we start to see the bigger picture, identifying resistance strategies becomespossible. Active non-cooperation is key as my hero John Trudell said. And you know what? People genuinely seemed to appreciate it. Sure it is upsetting information, but better to know so we can plan.

Together we can carve solidarity out of the dystopia capitalism has created. Time to look squarely at the truth and prepare for an age of automation and human capital debt-finance.

All we have is each other. Love and peace folks.

My testimony:

We are living in a time of extreme wealth and devastating poverty. The future of work is highly uncertain. Based on pronouncements from the Markle Foundation, the Aspen Institute, Pearson, and Tom Vander Ark’s Global Education Futures Initiative, we need to be paying attention to the rise of artificial intelligence, globalized, platformed labor, and human-robot collaboration.

The MacArthur Foundation and its spin-off, Collective Shift, have spent millions of dollars promoting gamified digital media and learning. Philadelphia is one of their pilot Cities of LRNG. Many LRNG cities are also “smart” cities: Dallas, Chicago, San Diego, and San Jose among them. Digital learning is central to the premise of the “learning ecosystem” advanced by Knowledgeworks, based in Cincinnati, and its “Cradle to Career” social impact offshoot StriveTogether. The latter works closely with the United Way through a “collective impact” network focused on predatory pay for success human capital management.

Those in power have reimagined education, and in this future:

Decentralized learning ecosystems replace bricks and mortar schools.

Learning is privatized, outsourced to online providers, non-profits, and corporations.

There are a few community drop-in centers, mostly staffed by AmeriCorps youth.

Academic and behavioral competencies are kept in online learning record stores.

AI “mentors” and “synthetic people” supplant human teachers and peers.

Learning is “engineered” by neuroscientists.

Internet of Things sensors and xAPI impose educational surveillance.

Badges, developed in partnership with Mozilla, substitute for degrees.

“Lifelong learning” is funded using digital vouchers that link payment to the delivery of specified performance metrics.

Accept vouchers? Hand over the data. In this way even homeschool families are sucked in.

Algorithms screen job candidates’ stackable credentials along with psychographic information pulled from custom-designed HR video games.

Black and Brown children are risk-profiled from birth and plugged into planned regional economies (or incarceration or the military) managed for the benefit of the corporate state (increasingly Google and cyber-defense interests).

Dystopia? Yes, we are there.

In this future, “opportunity youth” are trained as “middle-skill” fodder for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Dehumanized education employs “virtual apprenticeships” upon which Lumina, Salesforce, and the Robin Hood Foundation place wagers-betting for and against a person’s life outcomes data. That seems to be what motivated bipartisan support for the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, the pay for success provision of the ESSA, seed funding from the Social Impact Partnerships Pay for Results Act to get the ball rolling. Evidently there is a lot of money to be made gambling on poor people.

People are being sold on coding as a pathway out of poverty, not realizing it’s this generation’s piecework. STEM sweatshops to build augmented reality “smart” worlds for those who run the cloud and the hedge funds that finance them will start to emerge in federal Opportunity Zones. Digital-on ramps, put in place by Michael and Lisa Nutter years ago with “smart city” money from IBM, wait in the wings as the Philadelphia Education Fund’s STEM ecosystem ramps up. Authentic knowledge will be replaced with isolating online learning, out-of-school time education, Pokémon-Go-style micro-knowledge aligned to the interests of funders like Dow, Chevron, Amgen, and Motorola.

Those in power see children as raw material to be run through the federal labor database O*NET, in Raleigh; “eds and meds,” skills delivered in quantities sufficient to suppress wages while optimizing profit. Meanwhile educational pathways are tracked for value-added “growth” data to run “pay for success” futures markets. Learning Machine has set up Blockchain transcripts with Paul Leblanc at SNHU. Dr. Hite served with him as an educational advisor at Ridge Lane Limited Partners. But whom should we ask about Amply, the pre-k Blockchain identity app launched by Innovation Edge in Cape Town? I hear folks in Philadelphia have been briefed, but I don’t know who’s the project lead.

Worker productivity is high, wages low, and precarious employment the norm. Closed-door deals are struck as Chamber of Commerce insiders line up the policy, finance, and technological infrastructure needed to control the masses. Pay for success, MoneyBall “What Works” Government, behavioral economics, the nudge…every policy wonk, philanthropist, global consultant and sold-out academic pitches techno-solutions for poverty as the Federal Reserve looks on pretending compliance by the oppressed will somehow magically bring them prosperity.

No, justice will not come from more data. What we need is the will to redistribute resources from a billionaire class steeped in white supremacy. Resources must go directly to poor folks; self-determination is key. It is wrong to channel money through intermediaries whose continued existence depends on intractable poverty.

Solidarity not charity!

Instead of coffels, digital peonage will chain people through biometric digital identity linked to public benefits. Eventually, if they get their way, this will include Education Savings Accounts to purchase competency-based education on the open market, the data being fed back into pay for success education deals. Look up State Representative Frank Farry and Social Innovations Journal’s “Parents As Consumers Symposium” planned for June 15, 2018, but abruptly cancelled. The agenda clearly describes the goal of linking ESAs to pay for success.

And so we are here at Dobbins Career and Technical Education High School to discuss education and poverty. Some still trust elected officials to deliver their children opportunities for stable lives presuming they work hard; and yet the reality of pending labor automation is harsh and unforgiving. Who’s going to tell the public there will be no more shop teachers, that the plan is outsourced work-based learning? No one is going to say they are replacing neighborhood schools with IBM and Ford training centers. No one wants to admit the National Center on Education and the Economy’s proposal laid out by Marc Tucker in the “Dear Hillary Letter” is ready to launch; that most future jobs will be gigs, and even those gigs will only go to those with the right sort of human capital. Behavioral data is becoming social credit currency. Build up your brand starting in pre-k, maybe at a Hatch Education surveillance play table. Those in power are watching, always watching; and the rise of robot class means people are becoming more and more disposable.

The United States compulsory education system has been used, since its inception, to reinforce divisions of race and class. It delivers human capital to meet industrial interests: youth trained just enough to do the work required, but not to imagine a future beyond the one defined by the pathways on which they are put. What is needed to eliminate poverty is revolutionary transformation. Poverty “reduction” is not about narrowing gaps. That rift was ALREADY far too great even as the founding fathers hammered out our duplicitous constitution. The system isn’t broken. Trump didn’t break it. Neither did DeVos. Our education system is working exactly as intended.

Paolo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

With false generosity he attempts not only to preserve an unjust and neocrophilic order, but to “buy” peace for himself. It happens that peace cannot be bought; peace is experienced in solidarity and loving acts, which cannot be incarnated in oppression.”

We need to become conscious, we need the oppressed to wake up to the sinister intent of the planned Fourth Industrial Revolution, and we need education for liberation.

Liberation will not be attained through an appointed committee.

It is created in the streets, doing the work with love and solidarity.

That is where we need to be.



When The Teachers Are Avatars And The Students Are Data: Wrench In The Gears Visits Kent, Washington, 11/2/19

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to return to the Seattle area, visit with fellow education activists, and present at the Kent Regional Library. I was last in Seattle in the spring of 2017 when I gave a talk on Future-Ready Schools at the Lake City Library. If you missed that one, you can watch it on KODX’s youtube channel here.

The video below is a voice recording of the talk I gave on November 2, 2019 along with the slides I presented that day. Be forewarned, it’s a long talk, two solid hours and over 120 slides. I apologize for the delay in getting it put together, but better late than never. You can access the slides directly via my google drive here or PDF here.  Those images are clearer, so if you want to zoom in and read the text use the links.

This talk builds on the ed-tech research I presented two and a half years ago with much more information on pay for success finance and the ways in which ed-tech and predictive profiling are laying the groundwork for speculative global markets in human capital data. There are a lot of really good infographics, so spend some time with those.

The Kent School District, a member of the League of Innovative Schools affiliated with Digital Promise, has seen widespread adoption of technology in classrooms and a shift towards work-based career pathways. There is a growing sense of unease about these changes, which is why I was invited.

Many corporations advancing ed-tech (Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and Google) have a significant presence in the greater Seattle area. This talk gave me the opportunity to examine some of the key players working to align public education to the precarious, “just-in-time” labor demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution being promoted by Governor Jay Inslee. It also touches on Inslee’s push for maternal home visits I’ve written about here, and adoption of the Swiss apprenticeship model I’ve written about here.

I’m grateful to have had this invitation extended and for the connections made. I hope it helps those who came to the talk as well as those who watch it online to make sense of the policies that are rolling out and better understand what is motivating these changes. We have to understand the landscape in which we are operating in order to effectively resist. I welcome your thoughts and questions in the comments.


No One Should Be A Commodity To Profit Goldman Sachs: Testimony Opposing Pay For Success Finance For Housing

Philadelphia City Council created a “Special Committee on Poverty Reduction and Prevention” on March 28, 2019 (resolution here), and with it the machine of human capital impact investing in our city of deep, deep poverty roared to life.

The purported goal of the committee is to create an action plan to lift 100,000 Philadelphians out of poverty by 2024, though how that will happen given stagnant wages and rising cost of living is unclear. See dismal workforce projections and plans to harness our education system to deliver a ten-dollar-per hour workforce here.

City Council commissioned a white paper, Narrowing the Gap, from HR&A Advisors, a New York real estate and economic development consulting firm, to inform the work. Resolve Philly/Broke In Philly (Solutions Journalism) boosters NBC Philadelphia (Comcast), Billy Penn, Al Dia, and PlanPhilly /WHYY provided, as supportive impact media partners will, expansive coverage of the development.

Three subcommittees have been set up: social safety net, education and workforce, and housing. A kick-off gathering of the full committee was held in October and hearings for each subcommittee are scheduled for November.

Transcript of the October 10, 2019 full committee hearing here.

Transcript of the November 18, 2019 “Safety Net Subcommittee” hearing here.

Below is video of testimony I gave at the November 25, 2019 Housing Subcommittee hearing held at Temple University Medical School. In seven minutes I make make clear my opposition to the poor being surveilled and transformed into data commodities to profit transnational global capital through pay for success contracts. If you are not familiar with pay for success, find out more here.

I express concern about Philadelphia’s municipal ID program, and how it could evolve into a “federated citizen” or digital identity system to track “impact” for the purposes of investors.

I note that we must understand Philadelphia’s deep poverty as the legacy of structural racism and recognize that continued automation of work will lead to a world of increasingly concentrated wealth and power. In this world those at the helm of the finance and technology sectors will rule over the masses through the Internet of Things, Big Data, and predictive analytics.

I state that pay for success finance is already being piloted in Philadelphia by Project Home, and that Sister Mary Scullion gave welcoming remarks at the first Total Impact conference in Philadelphia last year. Omar Woodard of the Green Light Fund was a speaker at this year’s gathering, and. Tayyib Smith, a Green Light Fund board member, serves on the housing subcommittee.

Making the poor jump through hoop after hoop on behavioral pathways to prove their worthiness to earn a right to have their basic needs met won’t fundamentally change our situation. Good behavior on the part of the poor won’t redistribute the resources of billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates to those in need. In fact, pay for success finance is designed to enable the rich to make money off the misery of the poor. Dispossession is the raw material of impact investing. It is central to the enterprise.

At the end of my remarks I ask members of the subcommittee if they are familiar with the concept of pay for success. Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanches replied, “Yes, we’ve heard the term.” Remember that.

A partner in this initiative is the Reinvestment Fund, lead investor in several “pay for success” deals including the Welcome Home social impact bond in Santa Clara, CA, which I wrote about here, and the Family Stability program in Connecticut, which I wrote about here. The Reinvestment Fund collaborates with Palantir (predictive policing, ICE contracts) in their deal evaluation. See Santa Clara’s Data-Mining Deal With Palantir Draws Scrutiny From Privacy Advocates, covered by SanJoseInside in August of 2018.

I will continue to work on mapping those involved with this effort, but after reading this brief post, Philanthropy represented on new Philadelphia City Council Special Committee on Poverty Reduction and Prevention, there were immediate red flags including the participation of:

Bill Golderer “progressive” pastor of Arch Street Presbyterian Church and relatively new CEO of the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (see collective impact and ALICE here).

Sidney Hargro of the Philanthropy Network, a planning partner in the Federal Reserve’s 2015 Capital for Communities event and stakeholder in the development of the city’s Out-of-School-Time network.

Pedro Ramos CEO of the Philadelphia Foundation, former member of the School Reform Commission, and advisor to ImpactPHL, an accelerator of the “impact economy.”

Andrew Frishkoff head of Philadelphia LISC, an initiative of the Ford Foundation spun off facilitate the redevelopment of distressed communities in the late 1970s. Note the Ford Foundation set aside a billion dollars of its endowment for impact investing in 2017.

Kristin Romens former program innovator for Big Brothers, Big Sisters who consulted for Bridgespan (Bain Capital’s non-profit impact investing consultancy) and now runs the Pew Fund, which is pouring money into pre-k, child mental health, and out-of-school-time learning-all impact investment sectors.

The final hearing, which will discuss education and workforce, is December 5, 2019 from 4 to 6pm at Dobbins High School, 2150 West Lehigh Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19132. To testify, you will need to email Andre Delvalle, Legislative Assistant to Councilmember Quinones-Sanchez, at andre.delvalle@phila.gov.

Below are the members of the Education and Workforce Subcommittee. Members of the full committee include Superintendent William Hite, formerly affiliated with merchant bank Ridge Lane, LP; Otis Hackney of the Mayor’s Office of Education to whom I protested about pay for success previously; and Dr. Donald Guy Generals, head of the Community College of Philadelphia a pilot for Digital On-Ramp human capital management programs described here.


Jessica Cunningham Akoto, KIPP Philadelphia Schools
Rafael Arismendi, Congreso
Steven Scott Bradley, The African-American Chamber of Commerce of PA, NJ, and DE
Malik Brown, Graduate Philadelphia
Rev. Bonnie Camarda, The Salvation Army
Katherine Clupper, The PFM Group
Carol de Fries, Community College of Philadelphia
Pedro Ramos, Philadelphia Foundation
Jennifer Rodriguez, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Esteban Vera, Jr., The Laborers’ International Union of North America Local Union #57
Rhonda Willingham, Menz Fit
Tara Williams, PA Department of Human Services
H. Patrick Clancy, Philadelphia Works Inc.
Otis Hackney, Mayor’s Office of Education
Yvette Nunez, The Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia
Alexandrea “Ali” Robinson-Rogers, The School District of Philadelphia

The Family Friendly Schools Act: A Set Up For “Soft Policing” Schools To Profit Impact Investors?

On November 6, 2019, former San Francisco District Attorney, California Attorney General, Senator, and presidential candidate Kamala Harris introduced the Family Friendly Schools Act. If passed, the bill would create a five-year grant program to restructure 500 elementary schools to “better align” schedules to the work day. The legislation authorizes $1,300,000,000 per year from 2020 to 2024 to pay for the program.

Co-sponsors include five Democratic senators: Kirsten Gillibrand (NY); Richard Blumenthal (CT); Jeff Merkley (OR); Sherrod Brown (OH); and Michael Bennet (CO). Ostensibly this legislation is to aid  working families by extending the school day with support from community partners. It is being presented as an “economic growth and child development strategy.” In my assessment, child development = human capital management for impact investment purposes.

While it is true that families struggle with child care before and after school, the motivation behind this bill has less to do with taking care of vulnerable communities and more to do with the planned expansion of pay for success finance and “cradle to career” pipelines for impact investors.

The collection of data and the monitoring of students and families this entails will require an expansive system of what I am calling “soft” policing. We may replace school police officers with social workers, but control of Black and Brown populations is still the primary goal. This shift will be justified as fiscally prudent, “what works” public policy, though it is predicated on predictive profiling.

Harris’s bill will usher in a new era of privatization, one in which community based organizations (CBOs) through data sharing agreements target turnaround schools for predatory “evidence-based” interventions; schools as data factories.

What would be truly family friendly would be legislation advancing stable, living wage employment such that an adult could be home with children at the end of a normal school day. In such a world, children would have time to decompress, have a snack, and enjoy a bit of unstructured play without having to conform to a PlayWorks recess rubric or wear a fit bit.

There would be opportunities for families to build community instead of being forced to navigate crises alone where safety nets have been torn asunder. Sure, it’s aspirational, but the “help” being offered here is not motivated by altruism but rather with an eye toward profit. Besides, what does a “normal” work day for low-income parents cobbling together gigs and driving for insta-cart look like? The days of a single nine-to-five job are rapidly coming to a close.

Careful consideration must be given to the context in which this legislative proposal has emerged. Deconstructing language matters. Relationships of money, power, and influence matter. Harris’s career as a functionary of the carceral state matters. It is at our peril that we accept any politician’s framing of an issue at face value. Just because a bill professes to be “family friendly” doesn’t mean that it is.

Restructuring The School Day

The Center for American Progress (CAP) is a liberal think tank affiliated with the Clintons that promotes evidence based policy, impact data, and social finance. It also supports the Family Friendly Schools Act. Catherine Brown, a CAP senior fellow and former Vice President of Policy at Teach for America, provided a ringing endorsement stating the bill would advance “educational equity and provide a needed boost to our economy.” CAP has been pushing extended learning time for over a decade. Kamala Harris, a regular at their events, presented at the 2017 CAP Ideas Conference and at a maternal health disparities event in October.

As indicated below, the language of the Family Friendly Schools Act states a preference for applicants willing to restructure the school day rather than simply adding extra time. This is a red flag.

Family Friendly Schools Act Restructure

Source: Family Friendly Schools Act

This approach aligns with CAP’s assertion that “At the core of expanded learning time is a critical and fundamental principle that cannot be overlooked – the complete redesign of the school’s educational program. Successful implementation of expanded learning initiatives occurs in tandem with other reform strategies and practices that take place through the redesign process. Without conjoining expanded learning time with the redesign principle, more time risks being “more of the same” and a promising school improvement strategy becomes a band aid.”

The image below is taken from a white paper funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for CAP in 2007. More about that foundation’s ed reform and impact philanthropy efforts here and here. Two years later, Arne Duncan created flexibility waivers through Race to the Top that allowed turnaround schools to use 21st Century Community Learning Center funds to “personalize” learning for college and career using “evidence-based” practices IF they partnered with organizations that “demonstrated experience improving student achievement.” The report goes on to laud KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program), noting ELT provides “flexibility to exercise innovation in a very deliberate manner.”

Center for American Progress ELT HP Funding

Source: Choosing More Time for Students: The What, Why and How of Expanded Learning

You’ll notice an emphasis on data and community partners both of which are prerequisites for outcomes-based contracting. The United Way has developed a sizeable network of Out Of School Time community service providers, as well as playing matchmaker for the questionable Salt Lake City pre-k social impact bond.

With Obama’s gutting of FERPA and the United Way’s campaign to get parents to sign waivers, the floodgates are now open for the data that will place children on “lifelong learning” pathways to digital indentured servitude. Imagine the number of community partners that will be involved with these 500 “family friendly” schools.

That’s going to be a lot of data!


National League of Cities After School Data

Source: Data-Sharing Federal Rules and Best Practices To Improve Out-of-School-Time Programs and Student Outcomes, Partnership for Children and Youth, Funded by Charles Stewart Mott Foundation

Source: Youtube: United Way, “Helping Students Through Data Sharing”

The video above was created as part of a United Way campaign to get parents to waive their FERPA rights. Materials for the Salt Lake City’s Promise Partnership community school program were created in both English and Spanish. For more information read Save Maine School’s post, United Way To Parents: Give Us Your Gold.

Another supporter of the bill is the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), a Gates and Lumina-funded “anti-poverty” think tank with ties to Connecting Credentials and the Workforce Data Quality Campaign. The organization prepared a white paper on Social Impact Bonds for the MacArthur Foundation back in 2014. Olivia Golden, Executive Director, noted it was a positive step towards job stability, child wellbeing, and economic security. I guess she hasn’t read the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act reports. The ones where they say a majority of jobs will be automated and the ones left are going to be gigs that pay less than a living wage. More on that here.

There’s yet another think tank behind the bill, the bipartisan First Focus, a lobbying outfit that advocates for the breaking down of program silos (all the better for the creation of data lakes for profiling) in support of federal budget policies having to do with children and families. First Focus has ties to the Institute for Child Success that ran the groundbreaking South Carolina maternal home visit pay for success project. More on ICS here.

And Randi Weingarten and the American Federation of Teachers are backing the bill. Of course. They’ve already embraced reimagined education with partners, and they’re holding the door wide open for community schools. In her statement of support Weingarten talked about “solutions that work.” Sounds about right; “what works” government.

Other supporters are shown on the map below.

Family Friendly Schools Act Supporters

Source: Supporters of the Family Friend Schools Act (click link for interactive version)

Expanded / Extended / Out-of-School Time Learning

The After School Corporation, ExpandEd, Wallace Foundation, Mott Foundation, United Way, YMCA, and Boys and Girls Clubs, among others, have been constructing a national Out of School Time Network (OST) that is poised to extend its reach into the school day through Extended or Expanded Learning Time (ELT). These folks are more than happy to participate in all the “restructuring.” In fact, they can hardly wait.

The seeds for this were planted decades ago by affiliates of Marc Tucker’s National Center on Education and the Economy. In a 1987 presidential address, Learning In School And Out, Lauren Resnick, Pitt research professor and close collaborator with Tucker on what would become Common Core State Standards, goes into considerable detail about Out-of-School Time and Extended Learning.

As technology for digital credentialing (badges) and education/training vouchers (ESAs) begins to scale, the extended school day Harris has proposed would be a logical precursor to un-bundled “anytime, anywhere” learning. See recent coverage of IBM’s Blockchain credential platform launch in partnership with the National Student Clearinghouse and this article on new payment systems linked to alternative education delivery, Charter Schools and the Unbundling of K12 Education Services.

Folks at the Heritage Foundation are eagerly anticipating the day fin-tech links up with free market education “choice,” but traditional homeschooling/un-schooling families need to be paying attention.

Heritage Foundation Fintech choice

Source: Financial Technology and School Choice in Education, Heritage Foundation

Digital vouchers are meant to control and commodify out-of-school, informal community learning, too. Libraries, arts organizations, recreation centers, robotics leagues; all the resources home school families have used in the past will be sucked into the “what works” data vortex. Organizations accepting ESAs or awarding digital credentials WILL be harnessed to the standards-aligned, data-surveillance pipeline. We all need to get on the same page. Unbundling schools, if conditioned on standards-aligned competencies for the gig economy, is going to be bad, really bad, for EVERYONE (but especially for Black and Brown communities).

Cicada Killer.jpg

In a previous post I compared hyrid-blended learning to cicada killer wasps (above) that paralyze their victims while consuming them from the inside out. I warned that privatization was taking place from within AND without. Still, too few people are paying attention to the “within” part. While school closures and charters have unquestionably been destabilizing forces for public education, the end game is outright colonization of remaining neighborhood schools through “personalized” learning and outsourced instruction to non-profit providers (teaching artists, etc.) as would be permitted by this bill.

Now we are seeing the rise of innovation networks and portfolio schools that remain titularly “public,” but have been handed over to private managers. These operators are often given free reign to be “innovative,” deploying all sorts of reformist practices often centered around ed-tech. This transformation is coming to fruition, make no mistake. The $6 billion+ behind the Family Friendly Schools Act would take this game to the next level.

The letter below shows how community partners offering out of school time instruction are well suited to participate in alternative (read Competency/Mastery/Proficiency) assessment pilots authorized under ESSA.

APOST Out of School Time Leaning

Source: Open Records Request, Comments on Pennsylvania Education Plan

How much time is there before gig tutors and “citizen school” mentors largely replace full-time certified teachers? With mastery/competency/proficiency based education we are seeing a shift with credit flexibility to individual student contracts, coursework set up as ELOs where students can earn graduation credit “learning” at a local rock climbing gym, on the job, or even teach themselves! I’ve written a number of posts about how ELOs and after-school programs have opened the door to Ed Reform 2.0 here, here, and here.

Blended Learning: Digital Data Theft

It is hard to ignore the fact that schools are now data factories: academic data, behavioral data, health data, and mental health data. The language of this bill says as much given the “evidence-based” services they plan to provide. Tele-medicine and tele-therapy consultations carried out in educational settings under weakened FERPA protections will open new frontiers in data extractivism. Meanwhile, the populations creating all of this value remain uncompensated and surveilled.

Family Friendly Schools Act Mental Health

Source: Family Friendly Schools Act

Of course the mother lode remains digital curriculum and online behavior management. That data is mediated through screens and wearable tech, an apparatus through which the elite plan to to exert sustained discipline over the minds and bodies of the masses. In unstable times controlling volatile populations becomes a priority, which loosens the wallet and makes the funding of “family friendly” initiatives like this more of an imperative.

In the summer of 2011, Karen Kator, head of the US Department of Education Office of Science and Technology, convened a meeting in partnership with The After School Corporation (TASC) to discuss the nascent “blended learning revolution” that would be carried out through Community Based Organizations (CBOs)  in extended day programs, the type of program being promoted in this bill.

Out-of-School-Time instruction was seen as a great opportunity to expand online learning, because CBOs were viewed as risk-tolerant team players, that would tap into a predominately youthful workforce deemed to be “unafraid of technology.” Note close ties between the Boys and Girls Club and Comcast and the YMCA and United Way.

Meeting participants from City Light Capital expressed excitement about obtaining access to “users in early stages of product development” and the “variety of testing environments” offered.

Community Partners Ed-Tech ELOs - 1

Source: Blended Learning Partnerships For Community Based Organizations, US DOE, 2011

Extended day programming would allow privatization interests to refine Ed Reform 2.0 strategies like digital badges, e-portfolios, and interoperable data systems, the latter being incredibly important to the future of human capital impact investing. Over the past decade the Wallace Foundation (money from Reader’s Digest) led the creation of OST data systems and pushed for student information sharing as well as the collection of social-emotional learning data.

Blended Learning Community Based Organization CBO - 2

Source: Blended Learning Partnerships For Community Based Organizations, US DOE, 2011

Among the thirty-five attendees were:

Tom Vander Ark, Learn Capital and Global Education Futures Forum

Jaime Casap, Senior Education Evangelist at Google

Matthew Wicks, Vice President of Strategy iNACOL

Gary Chapman, Executive Vice President of Communities in Schools

Ursula Helminski, Vice President of External Affairs at the Afterschool Alliance

KJ Lavoie, Senior Director of Government Relations, Boys and Girls Club

Ivana Alexander, Senior Public Policy Manager, YMCA of the USA

Community Schools

During the week the Family Friendly Schools Act circulated through my social media feed, many teachers voiced anger and frustration at the prospect of longer work days. They shouldn’t have worried about overwork though;  the whole point of the bill is to push teachers out of schools as much as possible.

Mercedes Schneider, blogger at deutsch29, said the problem with the bill was a presumption that schools were “stable” places. She hints at the real issue in the closing line of her post where she notes the program should “exclude schools operated by third parties that are not directly responsible to the public.” Her analysis stops short, however, sidestepping the fact that the proposed legislation overlaps with the roll out of “community” school initiatives; initiatives enthusiastically supported by union leadership through AROS (the Alliance to Reclaim our Schools) and many social justice activists who seem not to realize what is actually going on.

Community schools have an important role to play in this privatization/financialization scheme. The Family Friendly Schools Act would create a vast network of schools tasked with collecting detailed family information, including social determinants of health. The plan is to bring intervention services (tele-medicine, tele-therapy) into schools where data is less protected and can be leveraged for impact investing purposes.

The selection below is taken from a US Department of Education FAQ on Expanded Learning Time under the ESEA Flexibility Waiver. Note references to anytime/anywhere learning, digital instruction, data sharing, e-portfolios and badges.

21st Century Community Learning Center Data Sharing

Source: 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Frequently Asked Questions, Expanded Learning Time Under the ESEA Flexibility Optional Waiver.

There continues to be deep denial about the plan for “community” school wrap around services to be delivered by outside organizations funded through pay for success finance; that the system will run on data. Wake up everyone. When they say “community,” they mean the United Way. “Community schools” is Orwellian doublespeak, and it is diabolically hard to get double-thinking people to recognize that.

In a 2015 whitepaper Where It All Comes Together: How Partnerships Connect Communities and Schools, Martin Blank, former president of the Institute for Educational Leadership (supporter of the bill) and director of the Coalition for Community Schools, states that Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, made community schools a central part of her platform when she assumed leadership in 2008. That is the same time GIIN (Global Impact Investment Network) and human capital data markets (see Gambling With Our Futures) in privatized public services were getting off the ground. Coincidence?

The Coalition for Community Schools  is funded by foundations known for investing in human capital: Annie E. Casey, Ford, JP Morgan, and Atlantic Philanthropies. It has partnered with the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), the grandfather of wrap around service providers, carefully tended over the decades by billionaire hedge funders Paul Tudor Jones and Stanley Druckenmiller. HCZ is where hundreds of impact equations have been refined, equations that will be leveraged across Promise Zone communities once conditions are right. Do Harris’s backers think that time is now? See this series of posts for further information.

While not as yet on record as supporting the bill, I want to bring to your attention Communities In Schools(CIS), the other high-profile “community” school organization with a national reach. They have advanced adoption of ISS or Integrated Student Supports and lobbied for it to be part of ESSA. In Work To Be Done: 2018-2022 Business Plan they describe their planned market expansion where affiliates are trained in evidence-based culture and data collection and pay for success targets and guidelines are developed. The following screen shots make it clear that “community” schools are in the business of “collective impact.” Affiliates that don’t deliver desired outcomes lose access to the “Communities In Schools” license and branding. This is not at all about altruism, but earned income, a growth model built on poverty and misery.

CIS Community School Licensee.jpg

Communities in Schools Pay for Success

Source: Work To Be Done: 2018-2022 Business Plan, Communities In Schools

SEL Investment Markets in Behavior Modification

Speaking of mental health, the timing of this legislation has everything to do with a growing demand for student social-emotional data (SEL). This is ostensibly for the purposes of “safety,” “well-being,” and career pathway alignment. While it may be a bit of that, the real deal is that engineering SEL data on dashboards creates opportunities for investors sold on the Heckman Equation to gamble on child data. Gross, right? They want the data to assess how “investible” students are, according to the numbers.

Proponents of SEL recognize that for a variety of reasons, listed here, they’re not going to get as much data as they want during a TRADITIONAL school day. But they DO want the data. So they’re planning on pulling in ELT/OST partners to get it. A 2015 study out of the Center for Cost Benefit Analysis in Education, Teachers College Columbia University suggested a whopping 11% return on investment for every $1 put into SEL programming. The Novo Foundation (Buffett $ via Warren’s son Peter) funded the study. They’re also one of the primary supporters of CASEL (Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning).

Cost Benefit Analysis SEL Columbia

SEL ROI 11 Percent Columbia

Source: The Economic Value of Social Emotional Learning, Center for Cost Benefit Analysis in Education, Teachers College Columbia University 2015

That’s an outcomes-based contract opportunity impact investors are not about to walk away from; so if Harris’s bill creates new opportunities to get that data through a “restructured” school day with complicit partners, they’re all in!

In fact, the language of the bill says each school receiving a grant must come up with a 10% match. The total award could be up to $5 million over five years per school. Right there is the open invitation for impact investors. Even with a bit of money in the game, they’ll be able to demand outcomes-data tied to grant performance. In this way they can exert pressure on partners to adopt digital “solutions,” because they provide “evidence” “with fidelity.” Among the supporters of the bill in Harris’s press release is the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL), home to the Coalition of Community Schools. Current president Johan Uvin expressed excitement over enacting “innovative policies.” Martin Blank, president of IEL until 2017 was a promoter of student data sharing, touting the potential of community schools to expand partnerships (outsourcing) and leverage outside investment. See screenshot below from a report Blank co-authored.

Community Schools Expanded Learning Time ELT

Source: The Afterschool and Community School Connection: Expanding Learning Opportunities and Partnerships

Community school data sharing agreements brokered within the context of a reimagined school day open up quite the treasure chest. In the diagram below I show the interrelationship between extended learning, social-emotional learning (SE), community schools, and student data sharing..

Student Data Sharing Communities In Schools

Source: Community Schools / SEL / ELT / Family Friendly Schools Act (click link for interactive version)

Pay for Success in California

Kamala Harris is allied with Governor Gavin Newsom, Silicon Valley’s golden boy. Newsom is making strides setting up infrastructure for speculative human capital investing through early childhood education and trauma screening initiatives. Tech interests poured a substantial amount of money into Harris’s senate race. Her donors include Marc Benioff of Salesforce, the company that developed ImBlaze for Big Picture to track student behavior competencies; recently launched a social impact investing fund with Lumina and the Robin Hood Foundation; and partnered with China’s Jack Ma (Alibaba, social credit scoring).

Harris also helped found, with California’s first Surgeon General, Nadine Burke Harris, the Youth Wellness Center that focuses on childhood trauma. The center has a deep stable of funders, many of whom are playing major roles in the development of data-driven human capital investing: Annie E Casey, Google, Tipping Point, JPB Foundation, Irvine, Packard, California Endowment. As I have written previously (here), my feeling is that the universal ACEs screenings reimbursed through Medicaid and promoted by Newsom and Burke Harris will be weaponized and fed into the machine of Big Data, creating the baselines required for NGO management of the lives of the poor.

California is five years into a pilot program to advance pay for success finance with support from the Irvine Foundation. Santa Clara County, in particular, has been a test-bed for various data-driven “innovative” financial contracting schemes, see my post on Silicon Valley Surveillance here. Harris’s co-sponsors all come from states that have pay for success pilots in the works. Make special note of Michael Bennet, because Colorado (along with Washington State) is in the lead position to adopt work-based education tied to digital identity and 5G / IoT infrastructure.

Family Friendly Schools Act Sponsors

Source: Family Friendly Schools Act Sponsors (click link for interactive version)

Kamala Harris: Ventura County Re-Entry Project, Project Welcome Home, Just In Reach, Partners in Wellness, Alameda County Asthma, Alameda County Justice Project, First 5 LA, Nurse-Family Partnership Orange and Sonoma Counties, San Diego REDF/CEO, San Francisco Homelessness

Richard Blumenthal, CT: Connecticut Family Stability Pay For Success Project

Sherrod Brown, OH: Partnering For Family Success, ResultsOHIO

Jeff Merkley, OR: The Way Home: Lane County Re-Entry Collaborative

Kristen Gillibrand, NY: Employment To Break The Cycle of Re-Incarceration, Rikers Island Social Impact Bond

Michael Bennet, CO: Denver Collaborative Runaway Youth, Multi-Systemic Therapy, Fostering Opportunities, Denver Supportive Housing (proposed)

As we consider the implications of an “anytime, anywhere” system of education where oversight is limited and pay for success profit derives from “fixing” poverty and trauma, it is worth noting that the when Harris was the District Attorney of San Francisco, her office refused to release information about their investigation into the sexual abuse of children by individuals associated with the Catholic Church. This non-disclosure continued despite repeated public records requests. San Francisco’s Archbishop William Levada was instrumental in the suppression of information about those crimes not only in the Bay Area, but nationally.

Compiling vast electronic dossiers on children, including the status of their families, mental health, and trauma scores, could put them at grave risk. We must give serious consideration as to the ethics of collecting and sharing sensitive data with community partners and mentors knowing full well that predators exist, and the most vulnerable children will become targets of abuse.

Even though it is unlikely that the Catholic Church will have a presence in a public school setting, the Vatican is a major investor in social impact projects globally. It has hosted three conferences in Rome on the subject in partnership with Notre Dame’s Mendoza Business School, and numerous representatives of technology companies from Silicon Valley, including Omidyar Network, attended. Many social welfare programs, including housing and healthcare, are administered through Catholic affiliated entities. There could easily be overlap with referrals for housing or other services made through “community school” networks. More on the Vatican and impact investing here, here, and here.

Kamala Harris and the Carceral State

Source: Kamala Harris and the Carceral State (click link for interactive version)

Policing Truancy

As California Attorney General, Harris established a Bureau of Children’s Justice with federal funding from Eric Holder’s Defending Childhood Initiative. The effort was aligned to “My Brother’s Keeper” an early-stage human capital management effort launched by Arne Duncan. Harris is a close friend of President Obama.

Truancy was a central focus of the bureau. In her acceptance speech for Attorney General, Harris stated “In San Francisco we threatened the parents of truants with prosecution, and truancy dropped by 32 percent. So, we are putting parents on notice. If you fail in your responsibility to your kids, we are going to work to make sure you face the full force and consequences of the law.”

Kamala Harris Attorney General

Harris spearheaded a 2010 law under which a $2,500 fine or a year prison sentence could be imposed on parents whose children missed too many days of school. A March 2019 feature, The Human Costs of Kamala’s War On Truancy, shares the story of one such parent, Cheree Peoples who at the time of her arrest was in the process of challenging the school district to obtain an IEP for her daughter who was chronically ill with sickle cell anemia. Harris then pushed for an expanded statewide data system to track truancy. That was a recommendation of her 2013 report on the “absentee crisis” In School + On Track. Governor Jerry Brown vetoed it in 2014.

Truancy Data CA

Source: In School + On Track: Attorney General’s 2013 Report on California’s Elementary School Truancy and Absenteeism Crisis

Of all the pressing justice-related concerns in the state of California, why would Harris make truancy such a high profile issue? Well, it turns out that in the United Kingdom where social impact finance is considerably more advanced, truancy is an impact metric for investment purposes. This screen shot is taken from a 2015 Brookings Institution report that documented lessons learned from five years of social impact bond development.

Truancy SIB Rate Card UK 2015 Brookings

Source: The Potential and Limitations of Impact Bonds: Lessons From The First Five Years Of Experience Worldwide, Global Economic Development Brookings Institution, 2015

AttendanceWorks is a non-profit that spun out of the Casey Foundation in 2006 just as the human impact markets were getting set up. Since 2010 they have been advancing national policy around the truancy issue. Same old funders: Gates, Open Society, Casey, Kaiser Permanente, United Way. So it comes as no surprise that the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 combined provisions for pay for success with a requirement to select additional measures of school quality, one of which was attendance!

In the lead up to the passage of the ESSA, Harvard conducted an attendance study using Philadelphia School students as test subjects, Reducing Student Absences at Scale By Targeting Parents Misbeliefs. It was the quintessential nudge effort where parents were sent form letters comparing their child’s attendance with peers. Our family opted out, but I remember a flurry of negative parent comments when the ridiculous letters came home. Even the title of the paper, published a number of years later, speaks to the industrial nature of this intervention. The system doesn’t really care why a child is absent. The system is not willing to devote material resources to addressing problems. They just want to get data and game it for their benefit.

When you consider whether or not you believe Harris’s Family Friendly Schools Act is truly intended to be “family friendly,” think about Cheree Peoples and these truancy rate cards.

Cheree Peoples

Source: Molly Redden, Twitter


Pay for Success finance presumes/predicts a degree of future criminality and/or brokenness for targeted populations: Black, Brown, poor, disabled, and LGBTQIA. Through data analytics people are pre-emptively designated “broken” so they can, in turn, be “fixed” by “evidence-based” programs documented on data dashboards. This is the sleight of hand that allows financiers to filch the profit built into outcomes-based contracts for privatized services run by community partners.

These predictions are not in any sense “real,” but asserting pre-crime/ or pre-disease characterizations further marginalizes individuals identified as “at risk.” The judicial system, where Harris launched her career, is the largest cost-off set for impact investing, though chronic illness and under-productivity are in the mix, too.

According to James Heckman, the data that can be most readily manipulated for impact investing purposes is character data, or SEL (Social Emotional Learning) data. Informal learning provides a wealth of opportunities to gather SEL data via projects and group activities. The passage of Harris’s bill would expand opportunities to collect behavioral and workforce data and link it to speculative pay for success investments.

I have been theorizing the imposition of impact interventions and the profiling that goes along with it as a form of “pre-carceration.” In a world driven by predatory human capital investments, the poor are designated “pre-criminal,” because that is how they become valuable to fin-tech. In an augmented reality (AR) future, the world becomes a digital prison with an overlay of geo-fencing that can be arbitrarily deployed to restrict a person’s rights. This is what we are hearing about in China with social credit scoring. Privileges are conditioned on one’s compliance to prescribed behaviors. It is the role of compulsory education to prepare youth for such a future.

As a former Silicon Valley prosecutor turned faux-progressive policy maker, Kamala Harris embodies this pivot towards pre-carceration aligned to the interests of surveillance capitalism. We’re swapping the school to prison pipeline for a “cradle to career” pipeline, and yet the humanity and self-determination of Black and Brown students continues to be subordinated to the interests of transnational global capital. 

Old Wine, New Bottles

Capitalism is a violent enterprise that expands through primitive accumulation, taking value without paying for it. Education and social welfare data are part and parcel of this enterprise. Given the explosive growth in the ed-tech sector and the “community” school movement, it is not at all surprising that this bill would aim to expand the school day and further commodify social relations and facilitate the harvest of ever more stolen data.

As Dr. Justin Leroy, professor of African American history at UC Davis, notes, the afterlife of slavery (and I would add Indigenous genocide) persistently interrupts the presumption that history follows a progressive course; that its arc must by its very nature bend towards justice. While we desperately want to believe “family friendly” school legislation will bring justice, if you scratch below the surface, even a little bit, the charade starts to fall apart.

Because racial capitalism is embedded within the settler-colonial economic systems of the Americas, new manifestations of oppression and struggle play out as slavery re-emerges and adapts to new conditions. Our present condition is one characterized by the combined influences of technology, debt-finance, globalization and militarism. We organize and protest. They replace police with social workers. The control systems recalibrate, and the cycle of resistance begins anew.

I’d like to adapt a quote attributed to Jay Gould, nineteenth century railroad baron. Recognizing seismic changes are afoot with anticipated automation of worldwide labor, including platformed service and knowledge work, I anticipate we’ll see global capitalists attempt to impose systems of control along Gould’s line of thinking. One half of the population will be deputized to police the other half. This policing will take many forms from overt, state-sanctioned violence to subtle yet insidious forms of data surveillance carried out by outsourced social welfare providers, including educators. That is the “soft” policing of “community” schools. The elite are hoping this move towards pervasive “soft” policing will keep the pot from boiling over, and it might…for awhile.

Schools have always been sites for the powerful to instill societal expectations, such that everyone knows their place, fears stepping out of line, steady as she goes for those at the top and to hell with everyone else. In a world of ever-greater uncertainty teachers are no longer trusted to teach, but must cede their autonomy to playlists of scripted lessons said to produce “results.” Free thought, creativity, and self-determination in schools are extinguished in the name of accountability and safety. In schools today few feel safe, and that is by design.

How better to manage surplus labor than to sort the masses into oppressors and oppressed? Those “fortunate” enough to escape oppression thus become accomplices in unfolding atrocities, triggering self-delusion that makes it difficult to acknowledge let alone escape the circumstances into which they have been thrust. This may account for the profound sense of torpor and denial I see as technologized carceral systems lock into place. Where is the outrage over putting toddlers and un-housed people on Blockchain so people can gamble on their lives? The surveillance play tables? The nudges? So many desperately want to believe nothing bad is happening, because there isn’t yet an obvious Plan B.

This is not to imply struggle is for naught. Leroy notes that history moves in unexpected, cyclic, and palimpsestic ways. See Chilean protestors demanding their Pinochet-era constitution be trashed and Indigenous opposition to the Bolivian coup mounted in El Alto. Resistance to neoliberalism is demanded, tactics of non-compliance with the forces of transnational global capital must be embraced.

And yet those of us attempting to advance the cause of justice must proceed with caution. We have to recognize the ways the powerful seek to confuse and control the narrative. When does a “community” school imprison the community? When does a family-friendly school turn children into a speculative data commodities? Strategic framing is being used to conceal venal intent. We have to be savvy and alert and expose the hypocrisy.

Frederick Douglass spoke of pouring “the new wine of liberty into the old bottles of slavery.” That is what I believe is happening with Harris’s plans for an extended school day and expanded family services. Under the pretense of providing “help,” this law will install an apparatus of “soft policing” tied to pay for success finance to discipline and manage the poor for the profit of investors while undermining the social fabric of targeted communities.

I so appreciate Dr. Leroy’s analysis, and it was a gift to stumble across a new talk of his as I pondered how to write this post. His speech was delivered as part of an “Archiving Colonialism” panel given at Barnard in February of 2019. If you have fifteen minutes, watch it here. It provided me with a valuable framework within which to situate the digital carceral systems I see emerging with breathtaking speed under a banner of data-driven social justice. Eyes open everyone. Things are often not what they appear. A good rule of thumb; look at everything through a lens of racial capitalism. It’s amazing the clarity that brings.

Justin Leroy Archiving Colonialism

Source: Archiving Colonialism, full panel